BELLEVUE, Neb. – The Waldorf College men's basketball team saw its postseason run come to an end with an 82-74 loss to Bellevue University in Saturday's Midlands Collegiate Athletic Conference (MCAC) North Tournament championship game.
The Bruins (27-5) entered the contest ranked No. 9 in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Division II poll. They forced 17 turnovers to generate 25 points and relied on perimeter shooting, burying 17-of-36 (47 percent) 3-point attempts.
"We didn't execute well down the stretch," Waldorf coach Nigel Jenkins said. "We had bad turnovers. Overall, we did a good job of protecting the basket, but we didn't get to their shooters quickly enough."
Trey Scott led the Warriors (15-15) with a career-high 36 points. The 5-foot-10 senior guard from Fridley, Minn. grabbed six rebounds, went 54 percent from the field on 14-of-26 shooting and finished 6-of-9 (67 percent) from 3-point range.
"Trey was great for us," Jenkins said. "He did a little bit of everything."
Waldorf junior Erik Brewer provided 15 points and five boards. Brewer shot 6-of-12 (50 percent) from the floor and 3-of-5 (60 percent) from downtown.
Senior Jordan Nelson scored 13 points and hauled in nine rebounds for the Warriors. Nelson, the MCAC Player of the Year, went 6-of-9 (67-percent) from the field.
"We just couldn't get him the ball enough," Jenkins said. "To Bellevue's credit, they did some things that kind of took him away. Jordan was still solid in his final game."
Pogos Trunyan powered Bellevue with 21 points. Percy Lemle added 13 points and Taylor Young finished with 11 points.
Sophomore Michael Morgan chipped in with eight points and a team-high 12 rebounds to help Waldorf dominate the boards by a 45-31 advantage.
"Michael did a great job on the boards," Jenkins said.
Waldorf jumped out to a 12-3 lead less than four minutes into the contest. It wasn't long before Bellevue got hot and climbed back into the game behind a barrage of 3-pointers. The Bruins shot 10-of-23 (43 percent) from behind the arc in the opening half and trailed 40-38 at halftime.
Bellevue outscored the Warriors 44-34 in the final 20 minutes. Brewer drained a 3-pointer to push Waldorf to a 43-38 lead during the opening possession of the second half. A pair of free throws from Alex Worthen-Harris capped a 17-5 run, boosting the Bruins to a 55-48 advantage with 15 minutes, 50 seconds remaining in the game.
"They started the second half on a very, very good run," Jenkins said.
The Warriors chipped away at the deficit. Brewer drove for a layup to tie the score a 73-all with 5:30 to play. Bellevue outscored Waldorf 9-1 the rest of the way. The Warriors missed their final six field-goal attempts.
Waldorf shot 53 percent, going 31-of-59 from the field and 10-of-18 (56 percent) from the perimeter. The Bruins went 25-of-63 (40 percent) from the floor.
Bellevue converted on 60 percent of its trips to the free-throw line, knocking down 15-of-25 attempts. The Warriors finished 2-of-8 (25 percent) at the charity stripe.
"Our guys were aggressive and we attacked, but it's kind of hard to win when they shoot 25 free throws and we shoot eight," Jenkins said.
Twelve of Waldorf's turnovers came in the second half. The Bruins committed just three turnovers, which led to eight points for the Warriors.
Waldorf outscored Bellevue in the paint, 36-14. Both teams collected 10 offensive boards. Bellevue came away with a 12-10 edge in second-chance points and owned a 28-2 advantage in bench scoring.
The Bruins were swept by the Warriors during the regular season. Waldorf won 76-74 on Jan. 10 at Bellevue and then brought down the Bruins in an 81-75 overtime victory on Feb. 10 at Forest City.
With the win, the Bruins advance to Tuesday's MCAC Tournament championship game against No. 12 College of the Ozarks (24-6) at Point Lookout, Mo.
The loss ended the careers of Scott, Nelson, seniors Devin Graham and Ben Amadi. Together, the seniors led Waldorf to 58 victories during their careers. They helped the Warriors to a 16-10 record during the 2013-14 campaign, which set a school record for wins in a season since joining the NAIA.
"Our seniors are going to be missed," Jenkins said. "They laid everything on the line for four years. Now, we've got to find a way to keep moving the program forward."
Winning three of the first 12 games, it was a tough start for Waldorf. With Scott returning to the team and the addition of Parrish off the bench after the first semester, the Warriors turned a corner and went 12-6 the remainder of the season.
"To start the season 3-9 and finish the way we did, that's pretty impressive," Jenkins said. "Next year, we've got to make sure we put together a complete season."
An MCAC regular-season title was within reach for Waldorf. The Warriors made a push, posting a 10-4 league record to finish just one game behind conference co-champions Ozarks and Bellevue. It serves as motivation for Waldorf heading into next year.
"Competing for a conference championship was what we wanted at the end of the day," Jenkins said. "We were one game short of that after the final game of the regular season. We've just got to keep at it and get better as a program. I'm confident we'll do that."