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Waldorf knocks off No. 18 Bellevue in overtime

waldorf-warriors-outline_1By Matt Oliver

FOREST CITY – The Waldorf College men’s basketball team notched its second straight win over a nationally-ranked opponent, knocking off Bellevue University in an 85-81 overtime victory during Saturday’s North Star Athletic Association (NSAA) matchup.
Riding a five-game winning streak, the Bruins (17-8, 5-2) entered the night ranked No. 18 in the latest National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Division II poll. It was another grind-out finish between the two teams, who forged a rivalry as members of the Midlands Collegiate Athletic Conference (MCAC) four seasons ago.
“It was just another classic Bellevue versus Waldorf game,” Waldorf coach Nigel Jenkins said. “We expected it to be tight and sure enough it was. We were able to knock down our free throws in overtime to seal the win.”
June Prowell paced the Warriors (14-9, 5-6) with a game-high 26 points. The 6-foot-2 junior point guard from Atlanta shot 64.3 percent, going 9-of-14 from the field.
Prowell grabbed four rebounds, handed out three assists and collected two steals. He played a huge role down the stretch, hitting 3-of-8 (37.5 percent) attempts from 3-point range and knocking down 5-of-7 (71.4 percent) shots at the free-throw line in the win.
“He got going, was able to knock down a couple of big threes for us in the second half, got to the line and did a better job finishing in overtime,” Jenkins said.
Waldorf senior Erik Brewer poured in 19 points, shooting 7-of-15 (46.7 percent) from the floor and 5-of-7 (71.4 percent) at the charity stripe. Brewer pulled down a team-high seven rebounds and turned in two assists.
Senior Tyler Parrish provided 14 points and four boards for the Warriors. Parrish was clutch at the foul line, converting on 5-of-6 (83.3 percent) trips.
Prowell, Brewer and Parrish – commonly referred to as Waldorf’s “big three” – helped set the tone. Their teammates followed suit, providing a supporting cast for the Warriors.
“They just continue to produce at a high level,” Jenkins said. “Our bench production was there again. We got pretty good balance from everybody, which is what we want.”
Waldorf sophomore Kaden Verdin added eight points, five rebounds and blocked two shots. He shot 3-of-5 (60 percent) from the field.
The Warriors received seven points and four boards from junior Michael Morgan. Freshman Isaiah Curry scored four points. Sophomore Kaimen Slay finished with three points and a team-high four assists. Freshman Devon Collins and BJ Brown contributed two points apiece.
In a game that featured 16 lead changes, Waldorf’s bench production was crucial in the early going. Verdin, Slay, Brown and Curry sparked the Warriors when they trailed by 14 points during the first half.
“They came in and gave us some pretty good minutes and kind of got us back in it,” Jenkins said. “That was a tough stretch for us and we found a way. Once we got going, it was dog fight.”
Olutola Olushola led Bellevue with 19 points and eight rebounds. Olushola had the hot hand, shooting 6-of-10 (60 percent) from the floor and 4-of-7 (57.1 percent) behind the arc.
Jerred Cook scored 12 points for the Bruins, who also received 11 points from Tyler Morgan. Marquis Aaron contributed a team-high five assists.
Waldorf scored the first two baskets of the game, going in front 4-0 in the opening minutes. Fifteen unanswered points allowed Bellevue to storm to a 15-4 lead with 13 minutes, 54 seconds left in the first half.
Mike Cardenas drained a 3-pointer, boosting the Bruins to a 22-8 advantage with 11:35 to go in the opening half. The Warriors charged back. Brewer found Prowell on a fast-break layup in the closing seconds of the first half, capping a 25-10 run to lift Waldorf to a 33-32 halftime advantage.
Starting the second half with a 14-6 run, the Bruins claimed a 46-39 lead following a layup from Aaron with 15:24 to go in regulation. Eleven lead changes ensued down the stretch with the Warriors’ largest lead being a 3-point margin.
Waldorf held a 69-66 lead with nine seconds remaining in regulation, but Olushola knocked down three foul shots to send the game to overtime.
The Warriors never trailed in overtime, outscoring Bellevue 16-12 in the extra period. Parrish converted on a pair of free throws as Waldorf built an 80-74 advantage with 26 seconds left on the clock. The Bruins pulled to within two points, trimming the lead to 83-81 following a layup from Chris Burton with seven seconds to play. Prowell sealed the win, draining a pair of foul shots on the ensuing possession.
The victory capped a 3-0 week for the Warriors, who are undefeated at home against Bellevue during Jenkins’ five seasons at Waldorf.
“I’m proud of my guys,” Jenkins said. “They found a way to protect home court and finish off the week at 3-0, but we can still get better.”
The Warriors shot 48.4 percent, turning in a 31-of-64 effort from field and a 5-of-15 (33.3-percent) finish behind the arc. They held the Bruins to a 39.4-percent shooting night as they finished 26-of-66 from the floor and 13-of-34 (38.2 percent) from 3-point land.
“That’s tough to do against a team like Bellevue,” Jenkins said. “They’re a tough team. They’re very good and they’re nationally-ranked year in and year out for a reason.”
Waldorf converted on 16 of its 21 (76.2 percent) free-throw attempts while Bellevue went 18-of-25 (72 percent).
The Warriors outscored the Bruins 30-26 in the paint. Both teams finished with 39 rebounds. The Bruins owned an 11-9 edge on the offensive glass, but Waldorf cashed in with an 11-7 advantage in second-chance points.
Bellevue committed 16 turnovers, which led the Warriors to a 20-17 edge in points off turnovers and a 10-4 advantage in fast-break points. Waldorf turned the ball over 15 times.
The series between the Warriors and Bruins is tied 5-5 during Jenkins’ tenure. Despite sweeping Bellevue during the 2014-15 regular-season campaign, Waldorf saw its season end at the hands of the Bruins in the MCAC Tournament. With the NSAA Tournament set for next month, Jenkins isn’t so sure the Warriors have seen the last of their rival this year.
“Our goal as a program is to be like them in the sense of being one of the top-tier programs in the nation,” Jenkins said. “I’ve got all the respect in the world for that program and what they do, but it was our night. I’ve got a feeling we’ll see them one more time [in the NSAA Tournament]. We’ll see what happens.”
Waldorf steps away from conference play to take on Governors State University (4-18) on Tuesday at University Park, Illinois.
The Warriors defeated Governors State 87-78 on Nov. 27 at Forest City. With the Jaguars starting the second half of the season with several roster additions, there could be some unknowns heading into the contest.
“If they’re anything like what they were when they came here, they’re going to be a tough team,” Jenkins said. “They’re going to be scrappy and all over the place.”
Saturday’s win marked Waldorf’s second consecutive victory over a ranked opponent. The Warriors brought down No. 20 Mount Mercy University (18-6) in a 99-92 win on Thursday at Cedar Rapids.
Another strong effort on the road will be crucial for the Warriors as they tip off with the Jaguars at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.
“We got a good win on Thursday on the road, but we haven’t been playing all of that great on the road,” Jenkins said. “We’ve just got to continue to be balanced and to defend. If we can keep holding teams under 40 percent from the field, I like our chances against anybody.”