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Men's Basketball defeats Crusaders, clinches No. 4 seed in NAC Tournament

Men's Basketball defeats Crusaders, clinches No. 4 seed in NAC Tournament

Northern Athletics Conference Tournament Schedule

Concordia University Wisconsin earned a slim 67-62 victory at Maranatha Baptist Bible College on Tuesday to close the Northern Athletics Conference regular season, but more importantly they clinched the No. 4 seed in the NAC Tournament.

With the win, the Falcons will now host MSOE on Saturday at 2 p.m. inside the R. John Buuck Field House. CUW dropped a difficult 71-63 road contest at MSOE less than a week ago (Feb. 6).

MBBC (5-19, 1-15 NAC) entered with a six-game losing streak and was last place in the NAC North Division, but played CUW to the end, as there were 12 scoring ties and 13 lead changes. Bryan Donaldson's (senior, Greenfield, Wis.) layup with 1:04 gave the Falcons the lead for good.

"We knew this year would be a process after losing eight of our top players from last season and only returning one starter," head coach Shawn Cassidy said. "I am proud of our seniors and what they have accomplished. Bryan, Brian, Steve and Casey started their careers as practice players in the program and developed into role players, and then took on leadership responsibilities of the team. Their growth over the past four years has been incredible, on and off the floor."

Senior Steve Zielinski (Brown Deer, Wis.) paced all scorers with 19 points on 8-of-15 shooting. Seniors Mark Pace (Milwaukee, Wis.) and Brian Jackson (Carol Stream, Ill.) finished with a combined 22 points and 11 rebounds. Senior Al Kahlfeldt (New Berlin, Wis.) chipped in six points on two 3-pointers off the bench.

"I am proud of Al and Mark," Cassidy said. "It is not an as easy adjustment to transfer to a new program, but both have bought into our style and have become extremely important leaders for us."

Matthew McGivern led the Crusaders with 15 points, including four 3-pointers. Brett Cashner finished with nine points and a game-high 12 rebounds.

"I am glad we do not have to game plan for Matthew McGivern again," Cassidy said. "I really respect how hard he plays and the leadership he has brought to the Maranatha team the past four years."

Zielinski rejected just one shot in the game to give him 66 for the season and 116 for his career (which ranks third in NAC history). He also set the program record for single season blocks previously held by Martsis Baudleskis in 1993-94.

The opening half was all about runs, as each team held a lead of at least five points. MBBC opened the game with a 5-0 run, capped by a Joel Borchardt triple. CUW answered with a 16-4 run to take the lead with 14 minutes to play in the first half. Pace drained two downtown field goals and Zielinski added a dunk in the lead change.

The Falcons eventually took a 39-33 advantage into the locker room at halftime. They held a 15-5 difference in second chance points and received seven points from their bench.

A Jackson layup extended CUW's lead to eight points, 41-33, with 18 minutes to play in the game. However, MBBC would not back down and a Scott Sutter 3-pointer ended a 9-0 run to allow them to retake the lead, 42-41. Both teams traded field goals over the next 14 minutes until Donaldson stole a pass and made a fast break layup to give the Falcons the final lead of the game.

CUW made 6-of-8 free throws in the final minute to seal the victory. The Falcons finished the game with a 32-18 lead in paint scoring and a 23-9 advantage in second chance points after outrebounding the Crusaders by a 49-34 margin.