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Friday, 02 March 2012 21:33

On To The Ship

3.2.12 | Men's Basketball

Wildcats knock off second-seeded Evangel, set up HAAC title showdown with MNU


SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Coach Ballard said all along his guys looked tight in the HAAC Playoff opener on Wednesday evening. That wasn’t the case on Friday evening as third-seeded Baker knocked off second-seeded Evangel University, 73-66 to advance to the 2012 Heart of America Athletic Conference Championship Game on Monday evening against top-seeded MidAmerica Nazarene.

Ben Steinlage led the Wildcats with a game-high 18 points  and Corey Anderson chipped in with 14 as Baker grabbed its marquee victory of the season. Samer Jassar also added 10 points and nine rebounds to go along with Steinlage’s 11 boards.

The 3-pointers were falling early and often for the Wildcats as Joe Wachter, Corey Anderson and Todd Eils all connected from distance in the opening 2:06. Steinlage connected on his 3-pointer at the 12:23 mark for a 6-point lead before Victor Agbasi hit one of his own followed by a jumper to tie the game at 20-20 at the 10:18 mark.

The teams stayed even through the 4:13 mark before the Wildcats finished the half with 7-straight points. Baker got 5-of-6 free throws from three different players before Jordan Honore scored with 33 seconds left to take a 41-34 lead into intermission.

Steinlage started the second half the way he finished the first as he scored twice to give the Wildcats their first double-digit lead of the game. Honore added a bucket at the 15:41 mark that maintained the 11-point edge before Evangel mounted a charge.

Brodie Wingert hit a 3-pointer, then added a jumper after two free throws by Stephen Cotten to ignite a 13-0 run over 3:22. Taylor Sirois finished the spurt with a bucket assited by Mitch McHenry and the Crusaders grabbed their first lead of the half with 12:29 remaining at 49-47.

McHenry knocked down a pair of free throws to keep the two-point cushion, but Baker would reclaim the momentum and go ahead for good. Steinlage was again the catalyst as he tied the score at the 10:29 mark and sparked a 9-0 run for a 58-51 lead.

Honore set up Steinlage for his final field goal of the game with 2:08 remaining. That kept the Baker lead at seven points. Cale Ramsey scored on the next possession, then set up Cotten for a bucket after a turnover by Honore to trim the deficit to four points. However, Kleine missed a 3-pointer with 47 seconds left after another Baker giveaway and the Wildcats hit 5-of-6 free throws to hold on for the win.

Baker’s shooting was the story though as the Wildcats finished the game 26-for-48 (55 percent) from the field and 7-for-13 (54 percent) from beyond the arc. Evangel finished the game just 21-for-62 (34 percent) from the field and 8-for-23 (35 percent) from beyond the arc.

The Wildcats move on to face top-ranked MidAmerica Nazarene at 7 p.m., Monday evening at the Cook Center in Olathe, Kan. With the victory, Baker has assured itself a spot in the 75th Annual Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship, set to be held March 14-20 at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Mo.

Check back on on Saturday for a full recap. View the box score here.

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