SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – It couldn't have ended any other way between Concordia University Wisconsin and Lakeland College on Tuesday evening in a Northern Athletics Conference Tournament semifinal game. It came down to the final possession, as the Muskies earned a 69-68 victory after they made two free throws with seven seconds to play.
The game was in favor of the Muskies the entire game, until the final four minutes when the Falcons began their push for an upset victory. CUW briefly led by four points with 1:59 to play, prior to LC ending the contest with a 7-2 scoring run, which included Brandon Hagenow's two free throws. CUW had one last attempt for the win, but couldn't get off a quality shot.
A boisterous crowd on both ends of the court encouraged each team as they gave everything they had to get to the all-important NAC Tournament Championship game. It wasn't the way CUW wanted to conclude its 2012-13 season, but six seniors played as hard as they could in their career finale.
"The way we played tonight shows the type of character this team has, especially our seniors," head coach Shawn Cassidy said. "We were down in most of the games we played this season, but we always battled to the final horn. I am proud of our effort.
"It was an incredible environment," he added. "The fans were outstanding and we appreciate their support every time they come to a game. This is a game no one will ever forget."
The game featured five scoring ties and eight lead changes, mostly in the final four minutes. The Falcons finished with a 20-8 advantage in bench scoring and had three players score in double-figures. Senior Brian Jackson (Carol Stream, Ill.) led the team with 18 points, nine rebounds and two steals.
Seniors Mark Pace (Milwaukee, Wis.) and Steve Zielinski (Brown Deer, Wis.) finished with 13 and 11 points, respectively. The duo also combined for 11 rebounds. Senior Bryan Donaldson (Greenfield, Wis.) dished out a game-high four assists.
"We have a great group that fights hard together on every possession," Cassidy said. "They play the game the way it was meant to be played, with heart and determination."
Justin Ward led all players with 20 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks for LC (22-5). Jake Schwarz also recorded a double-double, 16 points and 10 rebounds. Hagenow chipped in 10 points and grabbed five rebounds.
CUW (18-9) made the game's initial score, a jumper by sophomore Malcom Bowers (Germantown, Wis.), but LC took over and led by as many as 10 points in the first 20 minutes of action. The Muskies held a slim 36-33 lead at halftime and owned a 7-0 lead in fast break points, while the Falcons had an 11-2 advantage in bench production.
Bowers would go on to finish with six points, eight rebounds and three assists. Sophomore Mark Scholz (Greenfield, Wis.) came off the bench to add seven points for CUW.
The Muskies lead hovered around seven points until the Falcons went on a 15-4 scoring run to take a 66-62 lead, their largest of the game, with 1:59 to play. The run was sparked by five points from Jackson, including a triple, and two-straight jumpers by Pace.
The scoreboard would read the same three times in the final 50 seconds.
The Falcons ended their season with 13 victories in its last 17 games. They also won at least 18 games for the third-consecutive season under the direction of Cassidy.