CRETE, Neb. – Nothing has come easy in GPAC play. The Concordia University men’s basketball team relinquished a 12-point first-half lead and then torched the nets over the final 20 minutes to pull out an 84-81 win at Doane (3-7, 1-2 GPAC) on Tuesday night. Chandler Folkerts and Jamie Pearson combined for 42 points as part of a big offensive display.
The Bulldogs could finally exhale when Chase Stone’s desperation three at the buzzer fell well short of the rim. Third-year head coach Ben Limback’s squad improved to 6-1 overall and 2-1 in conference play.
“We told this team that we knew we can score,” Limback said. “We knew that at the beginning of the season. Our struggle has been, can we buy in defensively and really get the stops and be aggressive and be in our spots as a team.
“We just have to continue to improve guarding the ball and keeping it out of the paint and the gaps, but I did like our offense in the second half.”
After trailing most of the second half, Concordia finally took an 80-78 lead when Micah Kohlwey emerged with a trey from the left wing with 2:25 left in the game. Doane star transfer Mykeil Tzul followed with a three-point play, but the Tigers failed to score again the rest of the way. Robby Thomas got the weak-side rebound of the proceeding Eli Ziegler miss and his put-back gave the Bulldogs back the lead for good.
Behind Folkerts and Pearson, Concordia rallied from a nine-point second-half deficit while putting on an offensive clinic. The Bulldogs shot 71.0 percent (22-for-31) over the game’s final 20 minutes. Pearson again entered the lane off the dribble on a regular basis and Folkerts drained mid-range jumpers as the Tigers sagged back.
Folkerts and Pearson both tallied 14 second-half points and Thomas added eight over the last 20 minutes. Pearson knocked home seven points during the second half’s first five minutes to help the Bulldogs erase a 37-30 halftime deficit. It was a barn burner from there.
Fortunately, Concordia has an experienced group that has been here before.
“We just have a lot of senior leadership,” Kohlwey said. “We all stick together and we worked a lot starting in the summer. We all know each other really well. We work together when things get tough. We didn’t play the greatest game tonight but we came together when it counted and got the win.”
Concordia had to weather a 23-5 Doane first-half run. The Tigers did an about face after trailing 23-11. Tzul spearheaded the Doane rally with a triple, then a steal and a layup. Suddenly the Tigers had gained momentum while getting big offensive nights from Tzul (23 points) and Tyson Miley (21 points, 14 rebounds).
In a game of runs, Doane seemed to counter every blow from Concordia in another GPAC shootout. The Tigers led by eight points in the final 13 minutes before Folkerts powered his way inside for a 3-point play. Eventually Concordia’s offensive firepower proved too much. Said Limback,” This team’s got a lot of guts.”
Thomas posted a line of 13 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks. Kohlwey shook off a tough shooting night in the overtime win over Morningside and made 4-of-7 shots from 3-point range as part of a 14-point performance. Off the bench, Nathan Toenjes chipped in eight points.
The Bulldogs have the weekend off before returning home for another rivalry game on Wednesday, Dec. 2 when Nebraska Wesleyan (3-2, 1-1 GPAC) visits Seward for an 8 p.m. tipoff. Last season Concordia earned a season sweep of the Prairie Wolves, winning by scores of 96-78 (Lincoln) and 86-83 (Seward).