’Cats lose heartbreaker, bounce back next night

Wildcat men’s basketball team secured a win on Saturday after losing in buzzer beater Friday

Nate Neary

Wayne State College men’s basketball lost a heartbreaker on Friday night against Bemidji State, but bounced back to win on Saturday night against Minnesota Crookston.

Despite 21 turnovers forced by the WSC defense, Bemidji State’s Christian Pekarek nailed a three-pointer at the buzzer to hand the Wildcats the 78-76 loss.

“They (Bemidji) just kept hanging around,” Assistant Coach Nathan Stover said. “We were in control and they had a short run, took the lead, then we took the lead up until the end of the game. If the game ends five seconds sooner, we win.”

The ’Cats started the first half strong, with a 13-point lead. The Beavers erased the deficit as the first half wound down and cut the halftime deficit to 37-33.

The second half tipped off and the ‘Cats still had the lead until a layup by Bemidji State’s Jai’Vionne Green tied the game 54-54. With 5:05 left in the game, Pekarek hit a three-pointer that gave the Beavers their first lead of the game.

Both teams battled for the remainder of the game as neither team had more than a four-point lead.

Beavers senior forward Ben Best made a layup with 10 seconds remaining, giving the Beavers a 75-74 lead. WSC Sophomore guard Vance Janssen was fouled with five seconds remaining and made both free throws, giving the ’Cats a 76-75 lead.

Best took the inbounds pass, found Pekarek in the left corner and drained a 25-footer, giving the Beavers the game winner. The Wildcats had the lead for 36:07 while Bemidji State led for only 1:28 throughout the game.

“Everyone on the team choose the game of basketball because they love to play it,” Stover said. “Sometimes there’s heartbreak and disappointment, so it’s never easy losing like the way we did.”

Jacks led the Wildcats in scoring with 19 points, followed by Matt Thomas with 15, Brian Goodwin and Austin Esters with 14 each. Bemidji State improved to 9-14 overall and 7-10 in NSIC play following Friday night’s contest.

The Wildcats rebounded after the tough loss Friday night with a 79-72 victory over Minnesota Crookston.

“Our guys were ready to win,” Stover said. “We got a very balanced attack from our guys so we came ready to play.”

WSC got off to a fast start, taking a 16-4 lead at the 13:29 mark of the first half. However, redshirt freshman Connor Gamble singlehandedly brought the Golden Eagles back into the game by making three consecutive three-pointers as the team went on a 20-6 run, taking a 24-22 lead with 6:11 left in the first half.

The Wildcats led at halftime 33-31.

The Wildcats opened the second half on fire, going on a 16-2 run and held the Golden Eagles scoreless for the first 6:40, taking a 49-33 lead. WSC kept its foot on the gas for the rest of the game as UMC got within only six points.

The lead remained at double digits for the Wildcats up until UMC scored the final five points to give the Wildcats the 79-72 victory.

“We had a killer instinct during the second half,” Stover said. “It was 33-31 and all of the sudden, five minutes into the second half and we’re up by 15. They were worn out.”

Jacks led the Wildcats in scoring with 19 points, his 16th straight game scoring in double digits. Junior guard Austin Esters went six of seven with 16 off the bench, while Janssen and Thomas each had 15. The Wildcats improved to 8-16 overall and 6-12 in NSIC play while UMC fell to 7-17 overall and 3-15 in NSIC play.

The Wildcats will travel to Marshall, Minn., on Friday night to take on Southwest Minnesota State University and Sioux Falls, S.D., on Saturday to take on the University of Sioux Falls.