MINNEAPOLIS, Minn.-- Coming into a gave versus a rival is always intense. When the outcome of the match-up decides who gets a berth in the National Championship tournament, the engery steps to another level. Trinity Bible College came in with outstanding energy and determination but the North Central University Men's Basketball team matched that effort and overcame the Lions to win the NCCAA regional championship on Saturday evening.
North Central (17-11) had defeated Trinity Bible College (Ellendale, N.D.) on their home court in December so the Rams knew the Lions would be ready to roar when they took the floor in Minneapolis on Saturday with an NCCAA National Championship berth on the line. And TBC showed the same fight that earned them the 2012 NCCAA regional championship banner over the first 10 minutes in the 2013 edition of this long time regional rivalry.
Trinity built a 29-16 lead at the 9:40 mark of the first half and it looked like they were ready to make a decisive run. But over the next 90 seconds the Lions missed two shots and NCU was able to survive the energetic burst from TBC to eventually get the deficit back to 38-37 with 1:34 left in the first half. A late three pointer from the Lions made the score 41-37 at the break.
It did not take long for NCU to begin enforcing their will on the game in the second half. Within the first 92 seconds the Rams took back the lead for the first time since the 18:18 mark of the first half. Though the Lions would never go away over the remaining 17 mintues NCU would never trail again.
North Central would climb in front by a 61-49 margin on a free throw from junior Ben Peters(Faribault, Minn./Bethany Academy) that represented their largest lead of the game with 13:20 left. But in a classic battle between two of the top players in the NCCAA, TBC senior Miquel Rosario and NCU senior and Region MVP Nathan Roeder (Hudson, Wis./Hudson) each posted massive efforts in the second half to keep things interesting all the way down the stretch. Rosario would tally 23 second half points with Roeder answering with 21 of his own to keep the Rams in front the rest of the way.
The game looked like it was over with 43 seconds left and NCU leading 85-74 but two Rams turnovers and three missed free throws allowed the Lions to make things dangerous in the final seconds. NCU would convert enough free throw to hang on and lay claim to the region championship banner.
Nathan Roeder ended up with 30 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals in the final game of his outstanding Rams career. Sophomore Jordan Harrell (Maple Grove, Minn./Maple Grove) posted an integral double-double of 23 points and 13 rebounds to steady the NCU efforts.
Sophomore Luke Chafin (Dayton, Ohio/Troy Christian) added nine points and seven boards while freshman Clarke Mossman (Conrad, Iowa/Marshalltown) pulled down 11 rebounds to go with 4 poitns. In his final home game senior Dylan Mckneely (Baton Rouge, La./Broadmoor) scored nine points with five rebounds.
Following the region championship game the 2013 NCCAA North Central All-Region award teams were announced. Nathan Roeder was named a first team pick and was also awarded the region MVP award.
The victory gives NCU an automatic berth in the NCCAA National Championship Tournament on March 5-9 hosted by Central Bible College (Springfield, Mo.). The Rams will go in as the national three seed which gives them a first round bye.
North Central will face the winner of sixth seed Valley Forge Christian College (Phoenixville, Pa.) and eleventh seed Ozark Christian College (Joplin, Mo.) on Thursday, March 7 at 4 p.m