BC men’s basketball hit the road Wednesday night for the opening round of the GPAC Postseason Tournament at Northwestern in Orange City. Upset-minded Briar Cliff took an early lead kept the game close until the end but could not pull off the win, falling 83-77.
The Chargers started the contest with a 23-10 lead, forcing a Northwestern timeout at the 13:19 mark. Six of Quinn Vesey’s eight points were scored in that first seven minutes.
Northwestern responded with a 20-4 run to lead 30-27 with less than six minutes left in the half. The half ended with a 14-13 battle and the Red Raiders led 43-41 at the halftime break.
Although the Chargers never led in the final 20 minutes, they managed to cut the Northwestern lead to just one multiple times and kept it a two-possession game for the majority of the half. A free throw by Jaden Kleinhesselink put the Cliff within five with 16 seconds on the clock but the Chargers could not get back on top of the tournament’s #2 seed.
“Tonight’s game was an absolute battle,” said head coach Mark Svagera. “We had a great start to the game and played with a great sense of urgency, then in that second half it just felt like we could make that one extra shot or get that extra stop and that’s just the way it goes sometimes. Northwestern is a very good team and I just want to reiterate how proud of am of the guys not only tonight down the stretch but also all season long.”
The starters for both sides did the most damage with Briar Cliff getting just 11 points from its reserves and the Northwestern bench contributing nine.
Jaken Kleinhesselink scored a team-best 21 points and hit four of the Chargers’ 13 3-point buckets. Quinten Vasa was just behind Kleinhesselink on the scoring chart with 19 points. The pair dished out five assists apiece. Connor Groves added 13 points and Ethan Freidel had nine.
Five Red Raiders put up double figures, led by Alex Vankalsbeek’s 32 points. Reigning GPAC Player of the Week Craig Sterk had 11 points and 12 rebounds.
Briar Cliff and Northwestern were evenly matched in a number of categories. The Chargers were 28-for-61 from the field compared to 32-for-62 shooting by the Red Raiders. Northwestern had a 37-30 edge in rebounds.
“It’s always hard to see a season come to an end,” Svagera added. “Our guys put in a lot of work to even make this season happen in a really strange year and I am really proud of the guys for a lot of reasons, but more than anything, it’s the toughness and togetherness they’ve played with this year. We had a couple opportunities during this season to quit, to give in, to let up and we never did and that speaks volumes about the players we have in our program.”
The Chargers end their season 12-14 overall. Northwestern moves on to host Jamestown Saturday.