March 15, 2009

 

Courtesy of Augustana Athletics

A night after extending its season with a buzzer-beating shot, the Augustana men’s basketball team knocked off defending Division II national champion Winona State 88-82 in the semifinals of the NCAA Division II Central Regional Championships Sunday night in Marshall, Minn.

The seventh-seeded Vikings (21-9) advance to Tuesday night’s regional final against top seeded and host Southwest Minnesota State. Tip off for Tuesday’s game is 7 p.m.

Winona State, who won the national title 2 of the past 3 seasons, ended its season with a 24-9 record.

The Vikings will be making just their second appearance in a regional final. Augustana lost to Wisconsin-Green Bay in 1978. In addition, the Vikings won their 59th game over the past 3 years, matching the best 3-year win total since 1988-90.

Similar to its opening round win over St. Cloud State, the Vikings need to make a big shot late in the game. Clinging to a 84-82 lead with 12 seconds left in the game, Augustana had the ball underneath its own basket and only 4 seconds left on the shot clock. Marques Blank lobbed an inbounds pass to Eric Krogman at the top of the key and he promptly knocked down a 3-pointer with 10 seconds to play, giving Augustana an 87-82 lead.

Winona State’s Jon Walburg missed a 3-pointer on the Warriors’ next possession and Augie’s Elliot Thomas secured the rebound and the victory, sending the Vikings into the Sweet 16.

Augustana got off to a fast start for the second consective game. David Foster, the hero of the Vikings’ win over St. Cloud State, picked up where he left off on Saturday. He scored 5 quick points to help the Vikings open a 13-8 lead with 14:16 to play in the first half.

Moments later, with the Vikings leading 15-13, Augustana reeled off 13 unanswered points over a 3-minute stretch to increase its advantage to 28-13 with 10:31 to play in the half. Mike Klepatz ignited the rally by scoring 8 of his 12 first-half points during the outburst.

At that point, Augustana had made 11 of its 18 field goal attempts, while WSU connected on 6 of 15 shots.

But the Warriors responded with a 10-0 run to cut the deficit to 28-23 with 7:45 to play in the half.

Winona State eventually trimmed the margin to 2 points at 37-35, but Blank hit a jumper at the 1:12 mark and Derrick De Zeeuw added a free throw with 46 seconds left in the half to give the Vikings a 40-35 halftime lead.

Augustana maintained the momentum at the outset of the second half. After WSU’s David Johnson sank a pair of free throws to start the half, the Vikings went on a 9-0 run, capped by another Foster trey to increase the lead to 49-37 with 16:17 to play.

Matters got heated when Klepatz and Johnson got tangled up chasing a loose ball. Johnson was called for a personal foul, but Klepatz was whistled for a technical foul for pushing Johnson. Johnson made 1 of 2 techical foul shots and Walburg made a bucket on the ensuing possession to cut the Viking lead to 52-43 with 14:32 to play.

But the Vikings seemed energized by the events and responded with a 3-pointer by Foster and a 3-point play by Krogman that boosted the lead back to 15 points at 58-43 with 13:39 left on the clock.

Winona State then went to its outside shooting to whittle away at the deficit. The Warriors knocked down 4 3-pointers over the next 5 minutes to trim the lead to 68-59 with just over 8 minutes to play.

Augustana pushed the lead to 14 points when Blank buried a 3-pointer as the shot clock was winding down to make the score 75-61 with 6:20 on the clock.

Moments later, Winona State score 7 straight points to make the score 76-70 with just under 4 minutes to go. But the Vikings refused to surrender the lead as Thomas scored inside and Foster made 2 free throws to push the lead back to double digits at 80-70 with 2:54 remaining.

WSU then outscored Augustana 12-2 to knot the score at 82-82 with 1:11 to play. But those were the Warriors’ final points of the night.

Foster and Blank paced the Vikings with 20 points apiece. Foster also led Augie with a career-high 11 rebounds for his second career double-double. Klepatz chipped in with 15 points off the bench, while Thomas added 11 points and 7 rebounds in a reserve role. Krogman also had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Johnson led all scorers with 27 points, while Jason Korth added 16 points.

Augustana outshot and outrebounded the Warriors. The Vikings shot 51 percent (29 of 57) from the field compared to WSU shooting 41 percent (28 of 69). Augustana also had a 45-31 advantage on the glass.