Despite Crown College students’ attempt to make their team feel at home with a large crowd and aggressive cheering, the North Central Rams men’s basketball team gave their student section a reason to take ownership of the Clark Danielson Gymnasium last night.
In one of the most animated home games of the season, the Rams (8-12, 5-9 UMAC) pulled out an important win in overtime against the Storm (8-14, 5-8 UMAC) by a score of 95-91. North Central and Crown began the game firing back and forth in the first minutes, which ended up foreshadowing the entirety of the game. No lead was secure as both teams lost every point-advantage within seconds.
The last time these two teams faced each other, Jan. 7, North Central crushed the Storm by 19 points. But with multiple three-pointers from Crown’s freshman forward Timothy Wendel and sophomore guard Josh Volness in the first half, this game quickly became a challenge, proven by three Rams players who scored over 20 points: Travis Voigt, CJ Lewis and Joel Cline.
Junior guard and season-leader in scoring, Voigt surpassed 1,000 career points after his first 10 game points. He ended the night with 24 points after sinking two free throws to secure the game with 2.9 seconds left.
Despite suffering some minor injuries earlier in the year, Voigt never fails to rise to the occasion. “He makes me look good,” said head coach Jon High after the game. “He has probably been our most consistent player throughout the course of the season.”
At an average of 16.3 points per game this season, Voigt’s scoring has been both consistent and timely. But tonight, he was not the only one to portray an MVP behavior.
“CJ had a really good game,” coach High commented. “When he is making good decisions, knows when to shoot, where to pass, where to go, he is a really good player.”
Sophomore guard CJ Lewis transferred from the University of Wisconsin River Falls this school year and has been making a name for himself so far this season. In spite of going through a few slumps, he has had several impressive games. And tonight, he had one of them.
At halftime, the Rams trailed the Storm 36-41. But Lewis took leadership and brought new energy to the second period.
In the first seconds of the complementary half, Lewis drove to the basket and connected for an and-one. Only two possessions later, he tried his luck again and had the same result, putting the Rams ahead by one. The crowd erupted.
Consequently, the Rams began to set the tempo of the game and continued to outscore Crown, which forced them to call a timeout when trailing 43-51 with 17:03 left of regulation.
North Central outscored Crown 41-36 in the second half. But their second-period effort would have been meaningless if it were not for the presence that the Rams had down low throughout the first.
Six-foot-4 junior post Joel Cline had a very difficult job as the big man on the court. He had to face 6-foot-6 Wendel and 6-foot-5 junior post Austin VanDerHeyden, the number 1 and 7 leading scorers in the conference, respectively.
“We run through things for them. These two are definitely the core,” said Crown head coach Luke Herbert.
Cline carried the team through the first half with 12 points and ended the night with 20. In addition, he kept VanDerHeyden to eight points. “You just got to hold your ground and stay down,” stated Cline referring to what approach he took to guard his rival.
The Storm came to battle, and with performances like Wendel’s, dropping 30 points and grabbing 17 boards, they really put up a fight.
Nevertheless, the Rams continued unfazed. The student body was on their feet through the entirety of overtime, supporting, cheering and chanting “defense!” until victory was claimed.
With this win, the Rams now needs to go undefeated through the last four games of the regular season in order to have a chance to make the NCCAA D2 playoffs.
Crown is also in a difficult spot; their chances of making both the UMAC and NCCAA D2 playoffs are almost inexistent.
“We need Morris probably to either go 1-2 or 0-3 for the rest of the way, and we’ve got to go 3-0 no matter what to make the playoffs,” explained Herbert after being asked how he sees his chances after this game.
Today, the men’s basketball team plays its last home game of the season against University of Minnesota-Morris (12-9 overall, 7-5 UMAC) at 4 p.m. They need to win in order to keep their playoff contention alive.