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WATERTOWN, Wis. - The Lakeland College men's basketball team clinched at least a tie for its first-ever Northern Athletics Conference North Division regular season title with an 82-71 win at Maranatha Baptist Bible College Thursday night.
The Muskies put themselves in position for a chance to wrap up the NAC North title and homecourt advantage in the upcoming NAC Tournament. Lakeland will earn the outright division title and the top seed in the NAC tourney if it can defeat Marian University at home on Tuesday in its regular season finale.
The Muskies (19-5 overall, 12-3 NAC) were efficient offensively against Maranatha. Lakeland shot 51.7% (30-of-58), including better than 50% in both halves, and also committed just eight turnovers.
Jake Schwarz (Sr.-Sheboygan, Wis.) scored 21 points and dominated the glass, grabbing 16 rebounds and setting the new NAC all-time career rebounding record with his first board of the night. Joey Burris (So.-Kiel, Wis.) added 21 points, including three three-pointers, and Kurt Jansen (So.-Wrightstown, Wis.) also added 13 points.
The two teams swapped the lead seven times in the first half until Lakeland seized momentum late. A 17-3 run capped by a jumper by Rylee Hernandez (Sr.-St. Paul, Minn.) gave the Muskies a 34-24 lead with 4:37 left in the first half.
Lakeland led 43-31 at halftime and built the lead to 19 early in the second half. The Crusaders (5-17 overall, 1-13 NAC) hung around and got within nine points on two occasions inside six minutes left in the game, but got no closer.
Maranatha Baptist was led by Brett Cashner with 18 points and ten rebounds. The Crusaders shot well, making 50.8% of their field goals (30-of-59), and also out-rebounded the Muskies 35-31, but committed 16 turnovers.
Lakeland will shoot for the division title and postseason tournament top seed when it hosts Marian Tuesday night at 7 p.m. at Woltzen Gymnasium. The game also will be Senior Night for Schwarz, Hernandez, Erik Strzok (Sr.-Thorp, Wis.) and injured senior Germell Heard (Milwaukee, Wis.).