Originally Published: March 5, 2008
Southwest Minnesota State University men’s basketball will face Northern State in the NSIC semifinals in Winona with a regional playoff berth on the line. Sound familiar?
It should because that is exactly what happened last season, except the Mustangs didn’t make the playoffs despite being in the conference finals by dismantling the Wolves 83-62.
But that was last year, and this is this year. To make it to the semifinals, the Mustangs needed to take care of business on Saturday night in a home matchup with Upper Iowa University. The Mustangs earned home-court advantage by finishing the season with the third best conference record, while the Peacocks finished sixth in the NSIC.
The Mustangs began the game well by jumping out to a 25-11 lead nine minutes into the game. After that, they never looked back. Going into the locker room at halftime, the Mustangs held a commanding 39-25 despite allowing the Peacocks to shoot 55 percent from the field.
At the beginning of the second half, the Peacocks closed the gap to as few as 9 points a couple minutes into the half but that is as close as the Peacocks would get. A little over a minute later, the lead was back up to 13 after a jump shot by senior Matt Fletcher and a layup by redshirt freshman Scott Roehl.
Even though Upper Iowa never allowed the Mustangs to blow the game wide open, the outcome was not in doubt throughout the second half. The Mustangs won with a final score of 76-63.
Southwest was led in scoring by senior Travis Krenske, who scored 17. Four other Mustangs surpassed double digits in scoring, including third year Andy Beilke with his 11 points on 4-6 shooting.
Beilke, who averaged about 15 minutes per game this season, was asked to play a bigger role in lieu of the injury sustained to junior Ryan Krome in Moorhead last weekend. Beilke played a team-high 30 minutes and, as usual, played tough defense against some of the Peacocks’ better perimeter scorers.
“Andy [Beilke] played very well,” said head coach Greg Stemen in an interview with the Marshall Independent.
There was a key series of possessions where Beilke scored and then forced a steal on the defensive end that led to a Mustang layup.
“I happened to be in the area,” Beilke said.
With 1:19 remaining in the game, Fletcher exited the game for the final time at the R/A Facility to a standing ovation, with Krenske’s exit coming 13 seconds later. Senior Darren Solbrack played in the final minutes of the game grabbing two rebounds, leaving the floor with 17 seconds remaining.
With the win, it does mean that the Mustangs will face Northern State on Friday in Winona. Game time is set for 6 p.m.