DUNBAR, WI – An early Maranatha deficit, that turned into Crusader leads upwards of 18 points, to lights-out three-point shooting, and a late surge by the Northland Pioneers, all characterized a thrilling 70-62 Crusader win on Thursday night, as the men’s basketball team won their second in a row.
The Crusaders didn’t start out the way head coach Keith Salscheider, had planned, with six turnovers in the first four minutes and six team fouls that gave Northland an advantageous 10-4 lead with 14 minutes remaining in the first period.
Northland achieved their lead through Maranatha’s early foul trouble and easy drives to the basket, but neither would prevent the visiting Crusaders from putting on what would be perhaps their best shooting performance from beyond the arc this season, as the team finished the game, 50% from three-point range.
It started though, with a floater by freshman guard Brady Moses (Lodi, WI), then a jump-hook by junior center Brett Cashner (Urbana, IL) to draw Maranatha back to within one, at 11-10. Northland’s next possession, a turnover, led to another bucket underneath by Cashner, and the offense started to churn, as Moses buried a deep three for a 15-11 lead.
Both teams traded buckets for the next few minutes, and Northlands’ Micah Baines drained a three to cut it down to 21-19. Soon afterwards though, Brady was at it again with several huge three’s, including another deep shot that gave Maranatha their largest lead at the time, 27-21.
Just when Northland pulled back within striking range, Maranatha would counter with a three-ball, and not just from Moses, as senior forward Kyle Kutz (Cambridge, WI) and Tanner Moses (Lodi, WI) contributed to four three’s in a span of four possessions, that led Maranatha to a 35-25 halftime lead.
The Crusaders’ weren’t about to let Northland charge back from the 10-point deficit at the start of the second period, inflating the lead to 15 points on a sudden, pull-up jumper by Brady Moses, and climaxing at 53-35 on some potent offense that kept Northland on their heels.
Northland scored on their next three possessions before freshman center Zach Terpstra (Barron, WI) subbed in, and made an immediate impact with two straight baskets.
The lead was never too far out of Northland’s grasp though, as the Pioneer’s momentum-shifter came on an and-one that chopped Maranatha’s lead to 62-50, then to 65-54 on a huge three that forced Salscheider to call a timeout with 5:07 remaining.
Things didn’t get easier for the Crusaders, who watched a Northland player made a pivotal hussle play to keep possession in their favor, and capitalized with a second-chance shot for just a 65-56 differential.
Northland continued to make Maranatha nervous, making free throws with two minutes to go, for their smallest deficit of the second half, 65-52.
Freshman guard Clayton Morrison decided he’d had enough though, going to the free throw line and giving his team a two-possession game, making his first free throw. Northland failed to score on their next trip down the court, and Tanner Moses, who came into the game an 80% free-throw shooter, nailed both shots.
Northland put all their eggs in the basket on their last possession, failing to come up with the clincher, and Morrison ended the furious comeback on free throws, to give Maranatha a clutch, 70-62 win.
Maranatha will see the Pioneers again, on Friday, February 7, at 7:00 p.m. for a rematch at home for Maranatha, but in the meantime, the Crusaders face stiff competition in the UW-Oshkosh Titans, on Saturday, at 3:00 p.m. in Oshkosh, WI.