Men’s basketball dominates MWC tournament once more

Matt Hoh

What is so special about the numbers three and four? Well, to start, the Vikings won the MWC crown Saturday for the third time in four years. And 43 was their combined margin of victory in the tournament as they pummeled Carroll University by 24 and then Grinnell College by 19 in the championship game.
The Vikings headed down to Grinnell, Iowa for the tournament, where they squared off against Carroll in the semifinals. The game started off close until senior Ryan Kroeger, who scored 23, hit a jump shot 11:23 into the game to give Lawrence a lead of two, which the Vikings would never surrender again. The lead increased to 28 with two minutes remaining in the game.
Senior Chris Page had a phenomenal game, finishing with a game high of 27 points and eight rebounds. Recording a double-double was junior John Dekker. He had 15 points and 10 rebounds. Also, senior Jayce Apelgren had a good game, putting up 16 points.
Last, but certainly not least, senior Doug Kadison played well, as he had a game-high eight assists. The eight assists brought Kadison’s total for the season to 141, moving him into first place for the season assist record previously held by head coach Joel DePagter, who had 137.
The Vikings played strong offense, shooting 57 percent from the floor and nearly 50 percent from behind the arc. Kroeger commented, “I think we played well offensively because we were well balanced and ran the floor well. When we [do that], we are much better.”
With the win, the Vikings moved into the championship game where they battled the host team Grinnell. Just 38 seconds into the game, John Grotberg, the nation’s leading scorer, hit a three-point shot giving Grinnell a 3-2 lead. However, 44 seconds later Dekker hit a jumper to give the Vikings the lead, and the rest was history as the Vikings went on to win 88-69.
The Vikings played outstanding defensively in this game, as they held the Pioneers to only 27 percent from the floor and 23 percent from behind the arc. Limited by the Lawrence defense, the Pioneers were only able to score a season low of 69 points, 14 below their previous low. In addition, the Vikings held the leading scorer in the country to 21 points, 10 shy of his average.
Dekker commented on the great defensive effort. “We learned from the mistakes we made in the game against them earlier in the year. We really focused on our second rotations in practice and being in position to help on penetration.”
The Vikings also played very well on the offensive side, led by Page who finished with a double-double and produced his second consecutive 27-point game, pulling down an astonishing 19 rebounds. Also making major contributions were Dekker and Kroeger, who scored 23 and 18, respectively. As a team, the Vikings hit 46 of 58 free throws.
With the win over Grinnell, the Vikings won the MWC tournament and a berth in the Division III NCAA playoffs. Kroger said of the win, “It’s a pretty cool accomplishment to win it three out of the four years that I have been playing here, but the feeling seems to get better and better every year.” Kadison added, “It is something special and something I will cherish my whole life.”
Dekker said, “It felt great, especially doing it in front of their crowd.”
The Vikings are 19-6 on the season and currently are ranked 25 in the country. They head down to Elmhurst where they will play in the first round of the tournament Friday. The Vikings will play No. 2 Washington University, who are the defending national champions.
The Vikings enter the tournament hot, having won nine straight games. Kadison said, “We know that the 60 teams that are left are all very talented, and if we don’t play our best, we will be beaten early; however, we plan on playing with confidence and taking it one game at a time.