Courtesy of Edgewood College
LISLE, Ill. -- The Edgewood College men's basketball team can beat anyone when their outsides shots are falling, but what happens when the three-point line turns colder than the Arctic Circle? Facing a season-low performance from beyond the arc, Edgewood turned to Kent Faurote and the inside game to defeat Benedictine University 64-60 in a Northern Athletics Conference Tournament semifinal game. Edgewood College will now host Lakeland College in the NAC Tournament championship game on Saturday afternoon for the right to advance to the NCAA Division III Tournament.
Third-seeded Edgewood College (21-6) must have felt like they were in the Twilight Zone in the first half, shooting just 1-for-16 from the three-point line, but somehow trailing Benedictine University (13-14) just 27-26 at halftime. Early on Edgewood College took advantage of Benedictine's sloppiness, converting two of their six turnovers in the first seven minutes into back-to-back fast break layups from Derek Nkemnji. The two teams traded the lead five times and were tied six times in the first half. Ultimately, Benedictine's Nate Green scored back-to-back layups to give Benedictine a one-point lead at the break.
With the outside shot not cooperating, Edgewood College made a focused effort to go inside in the second half. Following their 10th tie of the night at 44-44 with nine minutes remaining in the game, Edgewood College got a driving layup from Ben Wisniewski followed by a Wisniewski three-point play to take a 49-44 lead. Benedictine would take their last lead of the game at 50-49 on a pair of free throws by Green, but Faurote would assert himself.
Tied at 55, Faurote scored a layup with 2:14 to go and followed it with a short jump shot on the next possession to give Edgewood College a 59-56 lead. Benedictine's Tim McGinty scored on a put back, but fouled Jake Guziewski with 45 seconds left. Guziewski made the first free throw and missed the second, but Derek Nkemnji ripped down a key offensive rebound to save the possession. That led to Faurote scoring on a tough driving layup down the right lane line to put Edgewood College ahead 62-58 with 16 seconds to play.
On the ensuing possession McGinty missed on a three-point attempt, but Green was fouled on the rebound and sunk two free throws to cut the Edgewood College lead to 62-60 with five seconds left to play. Benedictine applied the press, but Faurote escaped with the ball down the sideline, where Benedictine's Mark Pace was called for an intentional foul with 2.6 seconds to play. Faurote sunk the final two free throws to send Edgewood to its second consecutive NAC Tournament championship game and the third in its history.
Faurote finished with a game-high 26 points, going a remarkable 12-for-12 from inside the three-point line. He shot 12-for-17 overall. Wisniewski added 14 points and team-highs with seven rebounds and three steals. Nkemnji chipped in nine points and dished out five assists. Edgewood College shot a very typical 49.1 percent (27-for-55) for the game, but a stunning 9.5 percent (2-for-21) from the three-point line.
Green led Benedictine with 25 points on 8-for-13 shooting and six assists. Michael Woolf scored 10 points and David Bernard and McGinty each had eight rebounds to lead Benedictine on the glass. Benedictine hit 41.2 percent (7-for-17) from the three-point line.
In Mequon, in the other NAC Tournament semifinal, fifth-seeded Lakeland College outlasted top-seeded Concordia University Wisconsin 85-83 in overtime. Lakeland College will travel to Madison on Saturday to face Edgewood College for the NAC Tournament title. The Eagles won both of the previous meetings this season.
Saturday's game can be seen live on EdgewoodCollegeEagles.com with Barry Adams and Tyler Dahmen calling the action. Tipoff is at 2:00 p.m.