POINT LOOKOUT, Mo. – Alex Starkel turned in a veteran performance for No. 21 Midland University in the opening round of the NAIA DII Men’s Basketball Championship, but it wasn’t enough as the Warriors fell to No. 9 Northwest Christian University, 91-78.
Starkel totaled 21 points and 11 rebounds in his final game with the Warriors. Fellow senior Diamontae McKinley led all players with 24 points as Midland’s season comes to an end with a record of 21-10.
“Northwest Christian is a very big and skilled offensive team, and we didn’t take care of business defensively to slow them down,” said head coach Oliver Drake. “This is a disappointing way to send out of six seniors, but it was such a pleasure to coach them this season and I can’t thank them enough for the foundation they have laid down for our program.”
Starkel scored the Warriors’ first five points of the game and a three-pointer by McKinley gave Midland an 8-7 lead at the 17:07 mark. The teams traded baskets and leads in the early going with Damon Overton‘s layup putting MU in front 15-13 at the 12:55 mark. NCU’s Michael Loomis connected from downtown on the ensuing possession to give the Beacons a 16-15 edge.
Northwest Christian never trailed again in the game. Despite the go-ahead three-pointer, Midland successfully defended one of the best three-point shooting teams in the country. The Beacons entered the day ranked sixth in the NAIA with a .398 clip from downtown, but went just 4-17 from long range in the contest.
Despite their three-point shooting woes, NCU shot 57 percent in the contest including a 70 percent clip in the second half of play.
The Beacons used Loomis’s three-pointer to go on a 14-2 run and take a 10-point lead with 8:54 remaining in the first half. Midland chipped away at its deficit over the final four minutes of the half, going on a 10-4 run, and went into the locker room trailing NCU by a count of 44-40.
Overton tied the game for Midland with a jumper at the 15:24 mark of the second half, 46-46, but the Beacons answered on the ensuing possession as they began their red-hot effort over the final 20 minutes of play.
NCU opened up a double-digit lead, 62-11, at the 8:37 mark and Midland’s offense continued to sputter to the finish line.
The Warriors shot just 36 percent in the second quarter as the Beacon offense clicked and pulled away with the win.
Starkel recorded his 15th career double-double, and concludes his career as Midland’s third all-time leading scorer with 1,892 points.
Clayton Shepard capped his Warrior career with nine points and two rebounds in the loss.