HAAC Tournament Recap

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The Baker University men’s basketball team posted a record of 12-6 in the Heart of America Athletic Conference during the regular season to earn the No. 3 seed in the postseason tournament. Here is a game-by-game recap of how the Wildcats fared in the tournament.

QUARTERFINALS AGAINST BENEDICTINE<strong>QUARTERFINALS AGAINST BENEDICTINE</strong> QUARTERFINALS AGAINST BENEDICTINE

After losing to Benedictine College Feb. 23 in overtime, the Baker University men’s basketball team won when it mattered most against BC with a 55-41 victory in the quarterfinals of the HAAC Postseason Tournament.

“It feels good, especially you know, being that it was the first time that (Baker) had had a home playoff game in 10 years,” junior Jordan Honore said. “It feels good to get that sour taste out of our mouth.”

The game was another defensive battle with Benedictine leading 2-0 after nearly six minutes played in the contest, but BU scrapped with BC and went into the break with a 20-15 advantage.

“That is what our team tries to take pride in are those tough and ugly games,” junior Kevin Lysaught said. “We’re trying to be the toughest team in the league.”

The Ravens came flying out of the gates after halftime, though, and took the lead 24-20 with a 9-0 run to force a Baker timeout.

“I was upset in the timeout because I thought we squandered some easy (opportunities on offense) and then we let them get some easy (opportunities on offense),” head coach Brett Ballard said.

BU then responded with five straight points with a basket from junior Baba Diallo and a traditional 3-point play from Honore.

The Ravens and Wildcats fought back and forth until BU went on an 11-0 run to take a 42-34 lead with five minutes left. Benedictine was unable to make a late comeback like it did six days earlier and the ’Cats advanced in the postseason tournament.

The win was the first home conference playoff win for the Wildcats in over a decade, but BU had to go on the road to play in the semifinals against Evangel University.

SEMIFINALS AGAINST EVANGEL<strong>SEMIFINALS AGAINST EVANGEL</strong> SEMIFINALS AGAINST EVANGEL

The third time was a charm for the Baker University men’s basketball team against Evangel University as the Wildcats defeated the Crusaders 73-66 in the semifinals of the HAAC Tournament.

The Wildcats jumped out to an early 11-4 lead with the help of 3-pointers from sophomore Todd Eils, junior Corey Anderson and senior Joe Wachter.

The Crusaders fought back to tie the game at 20-20 midway through the first half, but the Wildcats responded with three straight buckets to extend their lead back to 26-20.

Evangel answered with back-to-back 3-pointers to even the game at 26-26. EU took a brief lead before Baker ended the half on an 11-5 run to go into the break with a 41-34 advantage.

EU battled back just like it did in the first half to tie the game at 47-47, but the Wildcats did not get rattled in the road environment. The Crusaders and ‘Cats exchanged two field goals before BU scored five straight points to lead 56-51 with 8:30 remaining.

Evangel would stay in it as they trailed 68-65 with a chance to tie it with 52 seconds to go, but the Wildcats knocked down free throws down the stretch to secure their spot in the HAAC Championship Game.

CHAMPIONSHIP GAME AGAINST MIDAMERICA NAZARENE<strong>CHAMPIONSHIP GAME AGAINST MIDAMERICA NAZARENE</strong> CHAMPIONSHIP GAME AGAINST MIDAMERICA NAZARENE

After splitting the regular season series, the Baker University men’s basketball team dropped the Heart of America Athletic Conference Tournament Championship game 75-68 to MidAmerica Nazarene University Monday in Olathe.

BU trailed 12-4 in the opening minutes, but the Wildcats weathered the storm and kept MNU from running away with the game early on.

“We had some good looks and shots weren’t falling for us,” junior Ben Steinlage said. “(Head) coach (Brett Ballard) always says that we need to get stops in times like that.”

The Wildcats got the stops and put together a 17-9 run to tie the game at 21-21, but MNU’s Rustin Dowd hit two of his three first half 3-pointers after BU came even to help give the Pioneers a 32-28 halftime lead.

Baker came out of the break to tie the game again at 34-34, but MidAmerica responded again by going on a 11-3 run to go up 45-37.

The ‘Cats clawed back to with in one point to trim the Pioneers’ advantage to 47-46 when Ben Steinlage drew MNU’s sixth team foul just before the halfway mark of the half, but the physical play was just beginning.

The Pioneers led 58-53 with just under seven minutes to go when MNU’s Luke Thomas committed an intentional foul on junior Samer Jassar. After Baker and MidAmerica Nazarene came up empty on their ensuing possessions, Jassar was knocked to the floor, but play continued until junior Corey Anderson was fouled seconds later with 5:41 left.

“I thought the game was pretty physical,” junior Baba Diallo said. “Late in the game, people started to get hurt. We got pretty physical, so the (referees) started calling it tight.”

While Jassar received medical treatment, the officials checked the instant replay, but no additional fouls were called other than the foul on the Pioneers’ Jacob French that sent Anderson to the line.

“There were some breaks there that were long,” Ballard said. “You know, I thought it hurt us a little bit because we had a little more depth than they did to be quite honest.”

The Wildcats would make another surge to cut MNU’s lead to 60-59 near the four-minute mark, but that would be as close as BU would get.

MidAmerica Nazarene closed the game with a 15-9 spurt to win the game and tournament.

Although the outcome of the game is not what Baker was hoping for, Ballard thinks the game will help the team in the NAIA National Tournament, and for next year as well.

“You know, in the locker room I said, ‘Yeah, it’s a tough deal to watch the other team get the trophy,’ and I get it,” Ballard said. “I said, ‘hopefully that will stick in the back of your minds in the offseason when we are preparing,’ and motivate some of our guys … It’s and exciting week ahead for us. It’s a great opportunity to go compete in the national tournament.”

The national tournament starts March 14 in Kansas City, Mo., but the Wildcats’ opponent is to be determined.

“I think everybody is hungry,” Diallo said. “Everyone just has a sour taste in their mouth. We just want to take it out on our next opponent.”

HAAC Tournament Recap