SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – The Winona State men’s basketball team’s season has ended in the most heartbreaking fashion.
The Warriors led for the majority of the game, including holding an eight-point halftime lead, but just like the rest of their season they couldn’t close it out. Now they will go home wondering what could have been.
Top-seeded Northern State overcame a three-point deficit with 20 seconds left, winning it on a Mason Stark floater with 0.1 seconds left to defeat Winona State 77-76 on Monday night’s NSIC Tournament semifinal inside the Sanford Pentagon.
Northern State’s dominance in the paint and at the free throw line were the difference in the ballgame. The Warriors successfully chased the NSIC’s top three-point shooting team off the arc all night, but allowed the Wolves to slash the lane for 38 points. NSU also cashed in all but one free throw attempt as the Wolves knocked down 18 shots from the charity stripe.
Caleb Wagner did all he could for the upset-minded Warriors, netting a game-high 24 points while dishing out six assists, but the junior guard missed the front end of the 1-and-1 with 12 seconds left that led to Stark’s heroics on the other end of the court.
With about 4 seconds left, Stark drove hard to his right from the left wing before releasing the floater over Warriors’ guard Delante Payton and forward Tommy Gathje. After review officials put 0.1 back on the clock. Winona State tried a long pass in hopes of a tip in, but the Wolves knocked it down.
Wagner’s jumper in the lane at the 2:50 mark halted an eight-point NSU run that saw the Wolves claim a 71-67 lead on the previous possession. Kevion Taylor followed that bucket with a big steal on the defensive end and sank a pair of free throws to knot the score at 71-71 with 1:54 remaining. The Wolves immediately answered with a basket to regain the lead before Taylor sank a three-pointer to give WSU a 74-73 edge heading to the final minute of play.
Taylor scored nine of his 17 points in the second half while Tommy Gathje scored 10 of his 11 in the first half of action. Fellow senior Mason Domask was perfect in two attempts from beyond the arc as Winona State shot 53 percent in the opening half from downtown.
Senior Charlie Koontz finished with five points and a pair of rebounds in his Winona State curtain call, a day removed from scoring a career-best 18 points to help lift the Warriors to the semifinals.
Whitelow concludes his sophomore season with a career-best 137 assists and will set a new NCAA record across all three divisions with his 5.96 turnover/assist ratio when the 2018-19 campaign comes to an end.