FREMONT, Neb. – The 2019-20 season didn’t go quite as smoothly as the Warriors would have liked, but Midland University’s men’s basketball team finished it off the best way it could with an emphatic win in the season finale.
The Warriors (10-17, 6-14 GPAC) streaked their way past the (RV) Mount Marty Lancers (19-12, 10-9 GPAC) on Saturday afternoon to earn a 106-93 victory and set a season-high point total in the process. It’s also the program’s first win in the regular season finale since 2017.
“Our guys did a phenomenal job all night and I couldn’t be happier for them,” said Midland head coach Oliver Drake. “This is exactly the kind of game we needed to head into the offseason.”
Midland started its final game on a high note and jumped out to an 11 point lead midway through the first half, but the Lancers wouldn’t go down easy. A quick 15-2 run erased the double digit lead for Midland as Mount Marty took control of the lead with under six minutes to play in the first half.
The Lancers’ lead reached as high as eight in the final minute of the first half before taking a 53-47 lead into the locker room.
Not to be outdone, the Warriors did exactly as they had done all season and approached the second half with intensity and belief. Out of the gates, three-pointers from sophomore Bowen Sandquist and freshman Jake Rueschhoff tied the game and got the Warriors back on the comeback trail.
The Warriors poured it on from there and shot their way to a 12 point lead with 11:06 to play. An 11-2 run for the Lancers kept them in the game and cut the lead to just three points with eight minutes left, but back-to-back baskets from sophomore Emanuel Bryson stretched the lead back to seven and kept the Lancers at bay.
Down the stretch, Mount Marty trailed by as many as 13 and was forced to start fouling. In the final 3:10, Midland made 11 of their 12 free throw attempts to hold on for a well-deserved victory.
Midland shot 75 percent (18-for-24) from the free throw line in the game and sank half of their three-point attempts (16-for-32) en route to the win. It’s not a postseason game, but a season-ending victory is always exciting to be a part of, and the Warriors earned it by continuing to improve every step of the way as the season rolled along.
Sandquist and junior Laurence Merritt led the Warriors with 26 points apiece. In his first season as a starter, Merritt finished the season as the team leader in scoring (16.7 PPG) and three-point percentage (.463). He also placed ninth in the GPAC in scoring and was top 40 nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.48).
Sandquist completed an up and down sophomore campaign with a stellar performance as he knocked down six three-pointers on Saturday. For the season, he averaged 15.3 points per game, two points higher than his freshman season.
Freshmen Sam Mailloux and Kylan Smallwood finished with 18 and 13 points, respectively, to cap their first seasons of college basketball. Smallwood nearly had a double-double as he finished with nine rebounds and four assists.
Freshman Jake Rueschhoff also capped his season with a solid performance as he totaled nine points and a career-high 10 assists. Rueschhoff evolved into a stout point/shooting guard throughout the season and committed just six turnovers compared to 28 assists in the final seven games.
Despite not having postseason play to look forward to, the Warriors played the final half of the season like a postseason team. Not once did Midland get outhustled in the final two months, a sign of growth and comradery that served as the focal point of the 2019-20 season.
“Our guys have all grown so much this season and the future is really bright,” Drake said. “I cannot wait to see our guys’ continual growth and development, both as people and as players.”
With momentum heading into the offseason, Midland basketball looks prepared to be a strong contender in the GPAC next season. With the entire team returning, it’s hard to put a cap on the potential the Warriors have going into 2020-21.
FREMONT, Neb. – Midland University’s women’s basketball team wrapped up their regular season on Saturday with an explosive 95-70 win over Great Plains Athletic Conference foe Mount Marty College. The Warriors battled back from an early deficit and outscored the Lancers 63-31 in the second half to secure the Senior Day victory and a spot in the GPAC Postseason Tournament.
Midland improves to 12-18 on the year with an 8-14 mark in GPAC action while Mount Marty falls to 13-16 overall and 7-15 in the league. Midland will be the eighth seed in the conference tournament and will see a familiar foe in the No. 1 seed Concordia Bulldogs. The Warriors have fallen twice to the Bulldogs this season, but the most recent meeting was a tightly-contested game that saw Midland falling by a score of 75-68.
In the home finale on Saturday afternoon the Warriors shot 53.4 percent (31-of-58) from the field compared to 44.6 percent (25-of-56) for the Lancers. Midland held a 32-27 edge in rebounds and went 28-of-32 from the charity stripe. Four players recorded double-digit points with senior Amanda Hansen‘s 22 points leading the charge. Junior Makenna Sullivan and Katy Gathje each contributed 15 points while sophomore Lexis Haase chipped in 11. Senior Maddie Meadows had six rebounds and a team-best three assists.
Midland trailed early in the opening quarter before layups from sophomore Peyton Wingert and Sullivan had the Warriors down 16-11 heading into the second frame. Gathje went to work in the second quarter with back-to-back layups to bring the score to 21-15 with seven minutes to go. Hansen took advantage of a Lancer foul to drop in a pair of free throws that had Midland down 24-19. Mount Marty countered each blow from the Warriors and maintained a 39-32 edge heading into intermission.
Threes from freshman Lexi Kraft and Hansen pulled the Warriors within two coming out of the break, and a layup from Sullivan tied the score at 44-44 with 6:23 on the clock. Mount Marty clung to a narrow lead over the next two minutes of play, but a Haase jumper gave Midland a 52-51 lead with 3:41 remaining in the quarter. An eight point run by Midland extended the lead to 61-53 heading into the final quarter.
The fourth quarter opened with a 12 point run to bring Midland’s lead to 73-55 with under seven minutes to go. The run featured points from four players with Wingert leading the charge with four points during the stretch. A steal by Kraft resulted in a Hansen layup to give the Warriors their largest lead of the afternoon at 79-59. The final minute of play saw senior Jada Simpson unloading for five points, and senior Shelby Bretschneider recording her first points at a Warriors to cap off the contest. The Bretschneider layup capped off a 34 point fourth quarter and brought the final score to 95-70.
Midland (12-18, 8-14 GPAC) will look to build off its second-half performance on Saturday to earn the programs first GPAC Tournament win as the team will travel to take on the No. 1 seeded Concordia University Bulldogs. The quarterfinal matchup in slated for Wednesday, February 26 at 6:00 p.m. at Walz Arena on campus of Concordia University.