It was like Christmas in March for basketball fans – the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls hosting 46 basketball games in just 12 days. Heritage Court had it all from March 1-12, including bracket-busting upsets and game-winning buzzer beaters.
Here’s the recap:
The Sioux Falls Skyforce got things started by taking on the Grand Rapids Drive. It was a fitting start to the hoops marathon considering this is season No. 30 for the Skyforce – the longest active run in minor league basketball.
The Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference tournament took center stage with four women’s quarterfinals matchups. The biggest upset: That there wasn’t an upset after an unpredictable opening round held on campus sites earlier in the week.
The men of the NSIC took the floor for their quarterfinal matchups. St. Cloud State was ousted by Wayne State but left an inedible mark as standout Gage Davis put up a tournament record 47 points on 19 of 32 shooting.
A buzzer-beater in the lane by freshman guard Mason Stark marked the NSIC semifinals. That kept Northern State in contention to defend its tournament title via a one-point victory over Winona State.
In the first of two Championship Tuesdays during the 12-day run, the Minnesota Duluth women claimed their first conference tourney crown since 2004. They edged Minnesota State Moorhead, and both teams wound up getting spots in the NCAA Division II national tournament. On the men’s side, the Wolves repeated by topping Southwest Minnesota State.
The sixth day of basketball featured a quick turnaround for the Pentagon staff with the first day of the 32-team NAIA Division II men’s basketball tournament. Eight first-round games featured teams from 11 states. Meanwhile, Augustana University of the NSIC announced that it will play non-conference men’s and women’s home games at the Sanford Pentagon starting in 2019-20.
Eight more games featuring 16 teams from 13 states on Day 2 of the NAIA Tournament. The performance of the day: Sam Vander Sluis of Cornerstone (Mich.) grabbed 27 rebounds — an all-time tournament record. He also had 20 points, five assists and four blocks. Also, Dell Rapids native Ty Hoglund went off for 43 points for Dakota Wesleyan.
The defending national champions from Indiana Wesleyan pulled off an 87-86 victory over DWU – the only South Dakota school in the NAIA field. A step-back, 3-pointer from guard Kyle Mangas with 2.1 seconds left was the difference.
IWU’s reign ended in the next round, dropping a 107-93 decision to Oregon Tech and guard Mitchell Fink. The Wildcats had been 7-0 in Heritage Court, including the 2018 title victory. Meanwhile, regional favorites Morningside and Briar Cliff were eliminated.
This was a day for much-needed rest, after slogging through 43 games in nine days.
Both national semifinals were intra-conference clashes. The Hustling Owls of Oregon Tech topped Cascade College Conference foe College of Idaho 93-81 to reach the title game. It was the Yotes’ second consecutive Fab Four defeat. In the other semifinal, Spring Arbor (Mich.) topped Marian (Ind.) team 66-50. Both teams hail from the Crossroads League.
The 12-day basketball bonanza concluded with Spring Arbor showered in red, white and blue confetti on Heritage Court. The Cougars topped Oregon Tech 82-76 in the NAIA Division II national championship game for their first national title. (It was the seventh handed out at the Pentagon.) Brandon Durnell led all scorers with 32 points, while Paul Marandet claimed tournament MVP honors.
Then, it was time for the Sanford Pentagon staff to take a breath — but not for long. The Skyforce resumes action March 15. And next March, the venue will host the NSIC and NAIA tournaments for the third year in a row.
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