Jeff Braun, Assistant Athletic Director
FREMONT, Neb. – Midland University was back in action Saturday afternoon as they faced No. 18-ranked Dakota Wesleyan University in an afternoon Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC) tilt. Coming off of a gut-wrenching two-point loss to the University of Jamestown on Thursday, the Warriors’ hard work was rewarded with the upset victory against the top-seeded team in the GPAC, 84-75.
The Warriors made their presence felt on the defensive end immediately to start the game and held the Tigers to one made basket on their first nine attempts.
On the offensive end, senior guard Laurence Merritt didn’t take long to get into a rhythm. The sixth man came off the bench and made his first five field goals, scoring 16 of the Warriors 20 points upon checking in.
The hot shooting stretch was part of an 18-3 run that the Warriors went on to take a 32-22 lead with 8:31 to go in the first half. The Tigers wouldn’t be down for long as they took the lead back before halftime thanks to a 17-6 run of their own, leading 39-38 at the intermission.
Midland’s hot shooting continued into the second half with sophomore forward Arturo Montes and freshman center Josh Lambert getting in on the action.
Montes punished the Tigers anytime they gave him space on the perimeter, shooting 4 of 4 from three-point range in the half. Lambert made his impact in the paint with strong post-ups and timely offensive rebounds.
The offensive firepower kept the Warriors ahead for much of the half, but once again the Tigers would not go away, erasing Midland leads multiple times.
The Warriors took their biggest lead of the game with just 2:10 to go as a pair of free throws from sophomore guard Jake Rueschhoff. Giving Midland a 74-63 lead.
Tigers’ forward Koln Oppold, who had a team-high 27 points, kept his team in the game with back-to-back 3pt field goals to cut the Warrior lead to six, 76-70, with 1:33 to go. On the ensuing possession, the Warriors would miss a pair of free throws, and then another Tiger three-point basket brought the score to 76-73 with just over a minute to go.
On the next possession, the Warriors ran the shot-clock down before giving the ball to Merritt who was still red hot and already had 11 points in the half. Merritt called for an isolation and sized up his defender before shooting a jump shot from behind the arc that was nothing but net, giving the Warriors a 76-70 lead with 42 seconds to go.
The Tigers were still in the game after a pair of free throws cut the lead to four but the Tigers’ tempers got the best of them as their bench and guard Nick Harden both received technical fouls in the waning seconds, effectively sealing the Warriors’ nine-point victory.
The win hopes to ignite new life into a Warriors team that has proven to be talented enough to compete with the best in the GPAC. With teams just reaching the halfway point of the GPAC season, there is still plenty of basketball to be played in 2021.
Midland (4-11, 2-10 GPAC) will be back on the court next Saturday to face Briar Cliff University (10-7, 7-5 GPAC) in a revenge game from their meeting earlier this season where the Warriors lost by just five points. The rematch game will be played be in Sioux City, Iowa at the Newman Flannigan Center with tip-off slated for 4:00 p.m. on January 16.