The Briar Cliff men’s basketball team opened play at the 2018 NAIA Division II Men’s Basketball National Championships in Sioux Falls, South Dakota Wednesday at the Sanford Pentagon with the third seeded Chargers emerging victorious over sixth seeded Oregon Tech by a final score of 80-70. The Cliff now advances to the Sweet 16 and will face St. Thomas (Florida) on Friday morning with another 10:15 a.m. tipoff. The Chargers improved to 25-7 overall with the win, while the Owls end their season with a record of 22-11.
With 2:39 left in regulation, Mitchell Fink made a free throw for Oregon Tech to tie the game at 67-67 but Briar Cliff would take control from there, ending the game on a 13-3 run. Jackson Lamb got things going for the Chargers with a triple to make it 70-67 and then Erich Erdman marched to the free throw line and made both attempts to push the lead to 72-67. Erdman and Jay Wolfe then built the lead to 76-67 with two more free throws apiece before Fink made another free throw to bring the score to 76-68 in favor of the Blue & Gold. Wolfe then added two more clutch free throw to push the lead to 10 at 78-68. Oregon Tech made it an eight point game with two free throws of its own with 30 seconds left in the game but Lamb iced the game with two freebies with 24 seconds left in the game to get the lead back to the 80-70 final.
“I thought our guys didn’t an excellent job of giving it everything they had. When the execution wasn’t there the effort was, especially to try and get stops on the defensive end of the floor,” commented Briar Cliff Head Coach Mark Svagera. “Friday is going to be a tough test. Saint Thomas is really good as they have been in the top 10 most of the season. They are big and physical and play different than most of the teams we see in the GPAC. They run a zone defense a lot of the time so that could present some challenges when we are so used to playing against man-to-man. The day off in between games is going to be for our guys, they are hungry right now and they will come out ready to go.”
The game was tightly contested throughout with 14 lead changes and seven ties. The Chargers trailed at halftime 31-28 but outscored the Owls 52-39 in the second half for the 80-70 win. The two teams shot pretty evenly with Briar Cliff shooting 37.5 percent from the field, 26.1 percent from long range and 86.5 percent from the free throw line, compared to Oregon Tech shooting 41.8 percent from the field, 22.2 percent from beyond the arc and 71.4 percent from the stripe. One of the biggest differences in the game was Briar Cliff’s dedication to get to the free throw line. The Chargers march to the stripe 37 times, making 32 freebies. Comparatively, the Owls also shot well from the line but only made 14 trips with 10 makes. Briar Cliff also took care of the ball with only eight turnovers and forced Oregon Tech into 17 giveaways.
Four Chargers scored in double figures in the game with Wolfe leading the pack with 23 points. He was a perfect 11-11 from the free throw line and also grabbed a team-high seven rebounds. Erdman was second in scoring with 16 points and Lamb added 14 points. Blake Wiltgen was also in double-digits, pouring in 11 points. Wiltgen and Erdman both secured six rebounds and Erdman dished out three assists. Wolfe and Ethan Freidel both had two steals.
Fink was the leading scorer for the Owls with 17 points and Tyler Hieb chipped in 14 points. Jalen Carvalho and Seth Erickson both grabbed seven rebounds and Fink handed out four assists.