Hot-Shooting Spartans Sail Past Muskies For NAC Title, NCAA Bid
PLYMOUTH, Wis. -- Aurora shot over 54 percent from the floor and buried 13 3-pointers en route to a 95-71 victory over Lakeland in the 2013 Northern Athletics Conference Tournament Championship Saturday afternoon in the battle of division champions.
The visiting Spartans (22-6) made their first five 3-point shots for an early 19-2 lead and increased their lead to a game-high 26 points, 51-25, with 3:30 left to play in the first half.
The Muskies (22-6) scored the final eight points of the half for the 51-33 score at intermission.
Aurora made a blistering 60 percent of its field goal attempts and 64 percent of its 3-point attempts for the 18-point halftime cushion, while Lakeland shot just 39 percent from the field and 30 percent from the arc.
Lakeland made a run in the second half and cut the deficit to single digits, 70-63, on a three-point play by the NAC's all-time leading scorer Jake Schwarz, but Aurora answered with 11-straight points to take control the remainder of the way. The Spartans' defense held the Muskies to just eight points the final eight minutes of play.
Mark Adams and Mike Bumber led Aurora with 21 points apiece, as Bumber connected on seven of his eight 3-point attempts.
Kyle Pilmer snagged 10 rebounds for the Spartans, while point guard Esteban Vega set a NAC Tournament record with 13 assists.
Justin Ward led the Muskies with 21 points on 8-of-18 shooting and grabbed a game-high 16 rebounds, while Rylee Hernandez came off the bench for 11 points and Schwarz added nine.
Aurora secured the league's automatic berth to the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament with its fourth NAC tournament title in the last seven seasons. The Spartans will find out their first-round opponent and location on Monday.