Viking Men lose game and a chance at a title

Andy York

The Lawrence University Men’s Basketball lost a chance at a co-championship last Saturday, losing to St. Norbert 72-64. The Vikings finished second overall in the MWC and will play Illinois College in the semi-finals of the MWC Tournament today at 5:00 p.m. in Grinnell.

The Vikings played well early in the first half, but fell victim to a large Green Knight run, and couldn’t catch up.

The Vikings led for most of the early part of the first half, and had their biggest lead of eight points with 9:44 to go.

However, St. Norbert went on a 17-2 run to close the first half, and the Vikings were reeling. By the time halftime came around, St. Norbert has jumped out to a 38-29 lead.

The second half was when the Vikings needed to play catch up. However, the Vikings went cold from behind the arc, and there was nothing they could do.

The Vikings tried to come back, but the closest the Green Knights would allow the Vikings to get was six, and St. Norbert eased into the victory, 72-64.

The Green Knights were led by Kari Hannula, who led all scorers with 21.

The Vikings had four players in double figures, but it wasn’t enough. Leading the way for LU were Jason Hollinbeck and Rob Nenahlo with 13 apiece. Kyle MacGillis had 11, and Chris Braier had 10 for the Vikings.

The Green Knights would qualify for the Midwest Conference Tournament with a loss by Ripon, but the Redhawks did not cooperate, and the Green Knights were eliminated from the MWC Tournament.

The Vikings will go into Grinnell as the second seed in the four-team tournament. The Vikings will play Illinois College in the first semi-final, while host Grinnell plays Ripon in the second game.

The winners will then face off at 3:00 p.m. tomorrow for the MWC Championship and the automatic bid to the NCAA Championship Tournament.

The Vikings have defeated every team in the tournament field but the Pioneers from Grinnell. The Vikings swept the Redhawks for the first time since 1982 this season, and split with the Blueboys, winning in Appleton and losing on a buzzer beater in Jacksonville.

The Vikings’ lone game against the Pioneers was at Grinnell, and saw the Vikings defeated 150-149 in triple overtime.

For the Vikings to win, they are going to need a big performance out of freshman phenom Chris Braier. Braier is the leading rebounder in the MWC with 10.9 rebounds per game. He also pulls down nearly four offensive rebounds per game, and the Vikings will need him to do that against the big bodies from Illinois College.

The Vikings’ outside shooting is another key. If the Vikings can hit three-pointers and get a wide array of points from players such as Brendan Falls, the MacGillis brothers, and Rob Nenahlo, the Vikings will have a good chance of taking the tournament crown for the first time since 1997.

Grinnell is hosting the tournament for the second time in three years, and is looking for another title to go with the one they picked up in 2001.

Illinois College has never won a MWC Championship, and the Redhawks are looking for their first since they went back to back in 1998 and 1999.

Check for updated results late Friday and Saturday night.