SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -When the first half ended with five lead changes in the last three minutes, the stage was set for a thrilling second half.
Lincoln Memorial and Chico State delivered on that first half promise with numerous lead changes and ties through most of the second half.
But with 7:55 left and the game tied, Lincoln Memorial went on an 15-1 run over the next 5 minutes and that late cushion allowed the Railsplitters to come away with a 74-61 victory Wednesday evening in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division II Tournament at the Sanford Pentagon.
“Chico State, hard-nosed, tough group of guys,” said Lincoln Memorial coach Josh Schertz said. “The final score was not indicative of how close the game was. They gave us fits with their size and athleticism. Obviously, I am pleased with our guys. I thought we fought. We were able to hang in. I thought the second half the ball moved better, the bodies moved better. We guarded them fairly well.”
Lincoln Memorial, 30-5, returns to the semifinals for the second year in a row and will play Northwest Missouri at 8:30 p.m. Thursday.
“It has been a weird year,” Schertz said. “This game kind of epitomizes our season. There was a lot of adversity. We went through ups and downs. Earlier in the year, when we had all our pieces, we were talented and really soft. Over time, we evolved from a talented soft team to a not as talented, but tough and gritty group.”
For a minute, early in the second half, it appeared Lincoln Memorial was going to put some distance between it and the Wildcats. The Railsplitters expanded a one-point halftime lead by scoring the first five points for a 35-29 lead.
A couple of three-pointers by Chico State tied the game at 37-37, and from that point on, it was back and forth with lead changes and ties. There were ties at 45-45, 47-47 and 52-52 over a three-minute period.
The last tie came at 54-54, and that was when Lincoln Memorial took over, making free throws, hitting a three-pointer and getting put-back baskets. Before Chico State scored its next field goal, the Wildcats were staring at a 69-55 deficit with just over two minutes left.
“We started putting the ball in the basket,” said Lincoln Memorial senior Luquon Choice, who finished with 22 points. “Like coach said, we started moving the ball in the second half. The shots started falling in and we took off after that.”