FREMONT, Neb. – Midland University men’s basketball team secured its first win of the 2018-19 campaign with a two-point victory in Saturday’s home opener over College of the Ozarks. The Warriors (1-1) narrowly edged the Bobcats (0-1) by a final score of 88-86 after a back-and-forth contest at Wikert Event Center.
“(The Bobcats) are just so good offensively, and returning a lot of starters and a lot of experience from a 23 win team,” said Midland head coach Oliver Drake. “We knew we’d have our hands full, I’m just really proud of the way out guys fought tonight.”
Neither team held a lead larger than nine points in the game, but it was the Bobcats that led for the majority of the second half. The final lead-changing basket came with just 29 seconds remaining in the game as senior Reggie Gradwell knocked down one of his five three-point field goals to put Midland ahead 87-86. Freshman Bowen Sandquist converted on one of two free throws after coming away with a late steal to secure Midland’s 88-86 victory.
Gradwell came off the bench for the Warriors five minutes into the first half, and on each of his first three trips on offense, connected on deep three-point attempts as part of an 11-0 run to give the Warriors a nine point lead, their largest of the night.
College of the Ozarks didn’t go away and responded with a 17-2 run of its own to retake the lead with 10 minutes to play in the first half. The teams were evenly matched the rest of the half with nine lead changes and two ties in the final 10 minutes of the half. Just before intermission, the Bobcats’ Calvin Allen gathered his own rebound and beat the halftime buzzer to tie the game at 47-47 at the break.
Junior Bryce Parsons carried the Warriors in the first half, scoring 20 of his team-leading 24 points. He finished the game 7-11 from the field and 9-9 from the free throw line. The forward also dished out eight assists, pulled down four rebounds, and grabbed two steals.
“He’s kind of a point-forward, we started him at point guard last game,” Drake said of Parsons. “He can do it all, there’s really nothing he can’t do.”
The second half for the Warriors was all about the bench as forward Luke Cadzow and company led the scoring. Twelve of Cadzow’s 15 points came after halftime as the senior finished the game 5-8 from three-point range while adding four rebounds and three assists.
Gradwell finished with 19 points off the bench, eight of which came in the second half.
“We’ve really challenged (Gradwell) this past week in practice and he responded,” Drake said. “He had seven rebounds in 23 minutes. He and Cadzow played like seniors and we needed that.”
The Bobcats controlled the lead for most of the second half, but the Warriors never allowed them to get farther out of reach than six points. With three minutes to play, a Gradwell three-pointer tied the game at 81-81. Then, with one minute 43 seconds left, it was a Cadzow three that gave Midland an 84-83 lead.
Treydon Rackley’s three-pointer gave College of the Ozarks an 86-84 lead with 47 seconds to play before Gradwell’s final three-pointer went down with 29 seconds left for the final lead change.
Midland’s bench outscored its starters 42-38 and outscored the College of the Ozarks’ bench 42-9. The Warriors shot 41.7 percent from three-point range (15-36) and shot and impressive 84.6 percent from the free throw line (11-13).
The one constant throughout the game for Midland was Sandquist, who finished with 18 points (nine in each half) on 6-16 shooting and 4-14 from three-point range. The freshman is off to a hot start to his college career after dropping 26 points in his Midland debut against Bethany on October 20.
The Warriors’ next game will be their first conference game of 2018-19 when they welcome the Concordia Bulldogs into Wikert Event Center on Tuesday, November 6. Start time for the GPAC opener is set for 8:00 p.m. following the women’s game.