- Evening, Weekend & Online Programs
- ALUMNI RELATIONS
- GIVING TO LAKELAND
- ABOUT LAKELAND
Aurora (Ill.) University shot 60% in the first half in building a huge lead, and the Lakeland College men's basketball team was defeated 95-71 in the Northern Athletics Conference Tournament championship game Saturday afternoon at Woltzen Gymnasium.
Aurora clinched the NAC's automatic berth to the NCAA Division III Tournament with a spectacular shooting performance, shooting 54.8% for the game and nailing 13 of 22 three-point tries. Lakeland was denied its second-ever trip to the Division III tourney and finishes its season with a 22-6 record, while the Spartans (22-6 overall) won their fourth NAC tourney title in the conference's seven years of existence and will make their ninth trip overall to the Division III Tournament.
The top-seeded Muskies had a tough day shooting, making just 39.1% of their shots (25-of-64), including just 7-of-27 from three-point range (39.1%). Lakeland still found a way to challenge in the second half, but the day was mostly about the marksmanship of the visitors, who came into the tourney as the NAC's No. 2 seed.
Aurora blazed to a 19-2 lead just over three minutes into the game, with Mike Bumber hitting the team's fifth triple at the 16:48 mark of the first half. The Muskies never fully recovered, though Lakeland did make a strong run in the second half.
The Spartans led by as many as 26 points in the first half, hitting 21 of 35 shots, including nine three-pointers, and took a 51-33 lead into halftime. The Muskies did close the first half on an 8-0 run and had the Spartans on their heels for a while, chipping away at the lead. Justin Ward (Jr.-Wisconsin Dells, Wis.) played a big role in Lakeland's rally, scoring nine consecutive points and totaling 16 points and 10 rebounds in the second half alone.
Lakeland closed as close as seven points after Jake Schwarz (Sr.-Sheboygan, Wis.) converted a three-point play to make the score 70-63 with 9:19 to play, plenty of time to complete the comeback. The Muskies would go cold over the next four minutes though, missing four shots plus the front end of a one-and-one free throw opportunity and also committing four turnovers.
Aurora capitalized and slowly pulled back away with ten straight points. Lakeland's chances also took a severe hit shortly after, when Scott Laskowski made a layup and Schwarz committed his fifth foul, putting him on the bench with 4:34 to play.
Ward led Lakeland with 21 points and 16 rebounds while senior Rylee Hernandez (St. Paul, Minn.) provided a spark off the bench with 11 points. Schwarz finished with nine points in his final collegiate game, hampered by foul trouble with two early fouls in the first half. It was the first time all season he was held to a single-digit scoring total, and he concludes a magnificent career as Lakeland and the NAC's all-time leading scorer with 2,199 career points.
The Spartans shot 34 of 62 for the afternoon, and their 13 three-pointers made were more than double their average per game this season and their second-highest total of the season. Aurora also owned the glass, though, out-rebounding Lakeland 42-32.
Bumber had a career performance for Aurora with 21 points, making 7-of-8 from three-point range. Mark Adams also added 21 points, including three three-pointers. The Spartans avenged a 99-94 overtime loss to the Muskies in the regular season on Feb. 2, defeating Lakeland for the first time in five meetings.
The Muskies finish their season with 22 wins, the school's most since joining the NCAA in 1997 and the most since the 1993-94 team finished 25-11 as a member of the NAIA.