Morningside’s men’s basketball team gained a share of the GPAC championship with a come-from-behind win against Concordia.
Seventh-ranked Morningside earned a share of the GPAC men’s basketball championship when it rallied from a nine-point second half deficit to defeat Concordia 90-84 in Saturday’s regular season finale in Sioux City.
The Mustangs won their 12th game in a row to finish the regular season with a 25-3 record, including a 17-3 mark in the GPAC to share the regular season title with Dakota Wesleyan.
The Mustangs won a coin flip with Dakota Wesleyan to determine the No. 1 seed for the upcoming GPAC Post-Season Tournament and will host Hastings in a quarterfinal round contest on Wednesday, Feb. 25, at 8 p.m. Winning the coin toss also secured the Mustangs’ an automatic berth in the upcoming NAIA Division II National Tournament as the GPAC’s regular season champion.
Morningside, 18-1 over its last 19 games, won its fourth GPAC regular season championship during the Jim Sykes coaching era.
Concordia, which came into Saturday’s game with a record of 11-5 on the road compared to a subpar 5-8 mark at home, did its best to play spoiler on the Mustangs’ home floor. The Bulldogs made 14 of their first 23 attempts from the 3-point arc and held a nine-point lead, 66-57, with just under 10 minutes left in the game.
The Mustangs caught their guests with 4:31 left in the game when a layup by Steve O’Neill tied the score at 75-75. The Bulldogs took three more leads, the last at 80-78 on a layup by Chandler Folkers with 2:45 left in the contest.
Morningside tied the score at 80-80 on a basket by Kyle Nikkel with 1:26 left and then went ahead to stay, 82-80, on a basket by Tanner Miller with 50 seconds left. The Mustangs put the game away when they went eight-for-eight from the free-throw line in the final 31 seconds.
Concordia shot a sizzling 59.6 percent for the game. A 34-27 Morningside rebounding advantage, 10 fewer turnovers, and an 11-point surplus from the foul line helped the Mustangs compensate for the Bulldogs’ hot shooting.
O’Neill led the Mustangs with a game-high 20 points, which all came in the second half. Miller was right behind with 17 points, followed by Andrew Christen with 14 and Nikkel with 13. Bryce Koch led the bench brigade with nine points.
Robby Thomas made five of nine 3-point shots en route to a team-high 17 points for Concordia. He was joined in double figures by Folkerts with 16, Micah Kohlwey with 14, and Joel Haywood with 12.
Nikkel grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds to lead the Mustangs to their 34-27 advantage on the boards. Nikkel went for his second consecutive double-double following a 17-point, 11-rebound performance in the Mustangs’ 77-74 Wednesday night victory at city rival Briar Cliff.
O’Neill led the Mustangs with four assists, while Miller had a game-high five steals. Miller raised his career total to 221 steals to close within 14 of the Morningside career record of 235 steals held by his older brother Trent Miller.