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In the first round of the NSIC tournament, the Winona State University men’s basketball team took down Minot State 67-56 Feb. 26 in Winona. The win advanced them to the next round, resulting in a 78-70 victory over St. Cloud State on March 2.
Against Minot State, the Warriors put forth a team effort to take down Minot State 67-56 and win their opening-round matchup.
The Warriors worked their way to a double-digit lead in the first half, courtesy of a 9-0 run which gave them a 14-point lead. In the second half, Minot State worked their way to cut the Warrior lead to only eight, but the Warriors never let them get any closer.
The Warriors extend their lead to as much as 19 once, with under five minutes left in the game. Offense shot 43 percent for the night, and three Warriors reached the double-digit mark. Riley Bambenek led the Warriors with 18 points, while Isaiah Gray scored 15 and a team-high six rebounds. Rounding out the trio was Mark Blacklock, who scored 13 points for the Warriors. On defense the Warriors held Minot State to 37 percent shooting and forced 12 turnovers.
Following the Warriors’ win, they were matched up against St. Cloud State in Sioux Falls, S.D.. This marks the 11th straight season the Warriors have won at least one conference tournament game, and now Winona State is 24-9 all time in NSIC tournament play. This victory also gave the Warriors their 24th overall win, tying them for sixth all time in program history.
Concluding the game against St. Cloud State, the Warriors played a much more closely-contested game and were able to come away with a 78-70 victory.
In a strong defensive game from both teams, the Warriors held St. Cloud State to 32 percent shooting for the game. The Warriors were able to take the lead late in the first half at 36-29.
In the second half, a five-minute scoreless period for St. Cloud allowed the Warriors to take a double-digit lead for the first time in the game. The Warriors would keep the lead late into the second half until a St. Cloud State challenge.
Under four minutes remained with St. Cloud down by only four points until clutch free throws by Josh Mongan and Bambenek and a breakaway dunk by Blacklock sealed the game for the Warriors. Bambenek was the leading scorer again for the Warriors with 23 points.
This was the tenth 20-point game for Bambenek this season, and he was recently named the NSIC Freshman of the Year.
Mongan scored a career-high 15 points for the Warriors while also grabbing five boards and dishing out five assists. Blacklock was the third Warrior to reach double digits with 15 points also and six rebounds, five of which were offensive. Coming just shy of double-digit points and a double-double, Kellen Taylor had nine points, eight rebounds, four assists and three blocks. The Warriors shot 46.7 percent from the floor as a team.
The Warriors faced Minnesota State University Moorhead March 3, dominating defensively for the 70-53 victory. The win advanced Winona State to the championship game at the NSIC/Sanford Health Tournament.
This will mark the seventh time the Warriors make an appearance in the conference tournament championship game under head coach Mike Leaf.
The Warriors took the lead early, shooting 52 percent from the floor. The lead extended through halftime and reached 23 points with under three minutes left in the game.
Blacklock led Winona State with 22 points, one point less than his career high. After the win against MSU Moorhead, the Warriors were 26-6 overall and had sole ownership of fifth place. The 26 wins are the most wins in a single season in the program’s history.
At the time of publication, the championship game is scheduled to take place Tuesday, March 4, against the winner of the game between Minnesota State and Southwest Minnesota State.
The Winona State University track and field team kicked off the postseason with the NSIC Indoor Conference Championship meet in Bemidji, Minn.
After two days of events, the Warriors posted a pair of top-three finishes on the final day to take fifth place.
The meet began on Feb. 28 with Elisa Kupferschmid, Hannah Mueller and the distance medley team earning top-five finishes in their respective events.
Kupferschmid clinched third place in the weighted throw with a distance of 17.99 meters. That distance also earned Kuperschmid an NCAA provisional qualifying mark. Mueller totaled a distance of 5.52 meters to take fifth in the long jump.
The Warrior distance medley took fifth place. The combined effort of Amanda Kaiser, Katie Bagley, Madeline Tompach and Lauren Rusch totaled a time of 12:45.98. Catherine Whitcomb ran a time of 57.84 in the preliminaries of the 400-meter run to earn her provisional mark.
“These athletes had goals or expectations that they would hit a provisional mark,” Warrior head coach Mason Rebarchek said.
The two-day format is made up of preliminary runs on the first day and final runs on the second day. Five Warriors made it out of the preliminaries and to the final day.
Bagley recorded the best Warrior finish on day two. Her time of 1:36.10 earned her third place honors in the 600-meter run.
Bagley also helped the 4×400 meter relay team earn third place. Bagley, along with Whitcomb, Kelsey Bethke and Taylor Vogel ran a time of 3:56.35.
After earning a provisional qualifying mark on day one, Whitcomb earned a pair of top-five finishes to close out day two. Her time of 57.93 earned her a fourth place finish in the 400-meter. She also finished fifth in the 200-meter with a time of 25.71.
Bethke also made it out of the preliminary races in the 400-meter. She posted a time of 58.84 to take seventh.
Jordan Skelly rounded out the top five in the mile run. She totaled a time of 5:06.45. Skelly also finished eighth in the 5000-meter run.
Andrea Bartz and Annie Weinrich cracked the top ten in the triple jump. Bartz posted a distance of 11.30 meters to finish fifth, and Weinrich finished sixth with a distance of 11.10 meters.
Natalie Jech and Paige Garriga rounded out the group of Warriors to finish in the top ten. Jech finished eighth in the 1000-meter run with a time of 3:04.77. Garriga totaled a distance of 12.79 meters to take eighth in shot put.
Rebarchek said the athletes are very ready for the postseason. “It’s not the regular season anymore,” Rebarchek said. “They know that if they make a mistake they don’t get another try, it’s preform or go home now.”
Freshman Brittany Dulak made the conference roster. Despite the raised stakes, Dulak said she is looking to have fun and enjoy the team’s success this season.
Over the two days the Warriors posted 55 points. The University of Minnesota-Duluth won the NSIC Indoor Conference Championship by totaling 143 points.
The indoor season wraps up March 14-15 with the NCAA Division II Indoor Championship in Winston-Salem, NC.