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The Journal Gazette

  • Justin A. Cohn | The Journal Gazette Saint Francis' Connor Lautzenheiser, right, passes the ball to Chandler White on Tuesday against Indiana Wesleyan in Marion.

  • Justin A. Cohn | The Journal Gazette Saint Francis' Bryce Lienhoop goes for the tip-off against Indiana Wesleyan's Evan Maxwell on Tuesday in Marion. 

  • Justin A. Cohn | The Journal Gazette Saint Francis' Connor Lautzenheiser, right, uses the pick of Bryce Lienhoop, left, to speed past Indiana Wesleyan's Kyle Mangas, a Warsaw graduate, on Tuesday night in Marion. 

  • Justin A. Cohn | The Journal Gazette Saint Francis' Derek Hinen, right, makes a no-look pass above Indiana Wesleyan's Canaan Coffey on Tuesday night while Evan Henry, left, sets a pick in Marion. 

  • Justin A. Cohn | The Journal Gazette Saint Francis' Derek Hinen, left, battles his way toward the basket against Indiana Wesleyan defenders Jacob Johnson, middle, and Evan Maxwell on Tuesday in Marion. 

Tuesday, February 27, 2018 10:20 pm

Indiana Wesleyan 95, Saint Francis 83

Saint Francis men fall in Crossroads League final

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

MARION – Both teams were calling it a figurative punch in the mouth, the the Indiana Wesleyan came out and dominated the early minutes of the Crossroads League Tournament championship game, then road it to an impressive 95-83 victory over Saint Francis on Tuesday night.

“We came in tonight ready to go, offensively and defensively,” said fifth-ranked Indiana Wesleyan’s Kyle Mangas, a freshman from Warsaw, who had a team-best 25 points on 10-of-18 shooting at Luckey Arena. “We knew Saint Francis pretty well and they know us pretty well. We hit them with the first punch and it kind of took off from there.”

Tonight, eighth-ranked Saint Francis will learn who it will face March 7 or 8 in the NAIA Division II National Basketball Championships at Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Normally, that might seem like a far-too-long layoff to mull a loss, but the Cougars played so off kilter that they’re welcoming the time to right things.

“I can see (the layoff) as good,” said Chandler White, a Carroll graduate, who led Saint Francis (25-8) with 24 points on 11-of-21 shooting. “We need to figure out what we need to do. Hopefully we go out to South Dakota and come out in the first half right away and punch other teams in the mouth first and don’t let them get back into it.”

Bryce Lienhoop and Derek Hinen had 14 points apiece for the Cougars, who were the No. 2 seed in the tournament and shot 48.5 percent from the field, deceptive considering they missed 11 of their first 14 shots and trailed by 24 points in the first half.

The play that made that deficit typified the Cougars’ night: Top-seeded Indiana Wesleyan’s Canaan Coffey stole the ball from White and took off the length of the court, eyeing a thunderous dunk. He missed, and even though there were three potential Cougar rebounders in position, the ball fell into the hands of Mangas for a put-back and a 43-19 lead.

Saint Francis finished the first half with a 9-0 run, culminating with a White 3-pointer at the buzzer, so the deficit was 45-32 and the Cougars had been out-rebounded 24-12.

By the end of the game, the disparity was 37-32 and the Wildcats, who shot 55.7 percent, answered every big Cougars shot with one of their own. Like when Connor Lautzenheiser’s 3-pointer was immediately followed by a 3 from Jacob Johnson for a 54-39 lead. Johnson totaled 20 points and seven rebounds for the Wildcats (26-7).

“We’ve got to get better. Unfortunately, they came out right from the gate and took it to us and we didn’t handle it very well,” Saint Francis coach Chad LaCross said. “Hopefully within a week’s time, before the national tournament, we can improve and learn something from it. It’s hard to put into words what that is right now. I thought they out-toughed us, I thought they outworked us, I thought they communicated a lot better and played with more confidence than us."

The Cougars lost here 87-82 in overtime on Jan. 13, then lost again to the Wildcats 86-82 at the Hutzell Center on Feb. 10.

jcohn@jg.net