James Larson’s offensive rebound and score in the final second lifted Briar Cliff to a 59-57 men’s basketball win over Concordia University on Wednesday evening in Seward. Concordia trailed by 11 at the half. Their rally in the second half fell just short, as Briar Cliff improved to 22-6 overall and 11-5 in GPAC play. BCU moved up to second in the GPAC standings with the victory. Concordia dropped to 15-10 overall and 9-6 in GPAC play with the loss. The Bulldogs also slipped to fifth place in the GPAC.
Both teams struggled to find rhythm offensively in the opening half. The Chargers led by two (13-11) with 10 minutes remaining in the half. From there, BCU used an 18-7 run over the next eight minutes to grab a 31-18 lead with two minutes left in half one. The Chargers took a 33-22 lead into halftime.
The offensive numbers were not impressive for the Bulldogs in the opening half. Concordia was just 10-of-26 (38.5 percent) overall and 1-of-9 (11.1 percent) from long range in the opening half. Briar Cliff warmed up as the first half went on and finished 14-of-25 from the field for 56 percent.
Concordia quickly erased the Charger lead in the opening minutes of the second half. The Bulldogs used a 16-7 run to pull within two (40-38) with just over 15 minutes remaining. A three-point play by Sam Huebner (Aurora, Colo.) put Concordia back on top (43-42) with 12 minutes to play in regulation.
The Bulldogs led by four on two occasions, but the Chargers hung around. There were multiple ties and lead changes down the stretch. James Larson hit a jumper to give BCU a 57-55 lead with two minutes to play. Following a Concordia turnover and a missed layup by Briar Cliff, Tyler Byrd (Bennington, Neb.) scored on a tough layup in the paint to tie the game at 57-57 with just over a minute remaining.
Briar Cliff turned it over on their next possession, giving the ball back to Concordia with 50 seconds left to play. The BCU defense stood strong, however, and forced Concordia into a difficult shot late in the shot clock. Byrd was unable to hit, and Briar Cliff got the ball for the final possession.
Matt Geelan missed a layup. However, Larson came up with an offensive rebound and scored with less than a second remaining. Larson was also fouled on the play and missed the free throw intentionally. The clock expired before Concordia could get a shot off, and the Chargers held on for the dramatic 59-57 win.
Concordia was 22-of-55 (40 percent) from the field in the loss. The Bulldogs hit just 4-of-13 (30.8 percent) attempts from behind the arc but were 9-of-11 at the charity stripe for 81.8 percent).
Porter Birtell (Madison, Neb.) had a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds to lead the way for Concordia. Huebner also scored 13, and Byrd finished with nine and five assists. Brent Houchin (Bruning, Neb.) added eight points off the bench.
Brenton Brown scored a game-high 17 points to lead three players in double figures for the Chargers. Larson finished with 15 off the bench, including the game-winner, and Jake Shipley added 10 for Briar Cliff.
Concordia travels to Morningside College on Saturday for a GPAC contest against the Mustangs.