The St. Olaf mens basketball team ended its season Wednesday night in the seminfinals of the MIAC playoffs at the hands of St. Thomas, ranked sixth nationally. St. Olaf fell behind by 11 in the first half and could not mount a second half charge, falling 77-61.
However, the Oles not only shocked third-seeded Bethel 81-79 in Arden Hills Monday night in overtime, but won their first playoff game in St. Olaf MIAC basketball history. A lay-up by Jon Bain 07 with two seconds remaining sent the Royals packing and St. Olaf to the semifinals.
The savvy senior trio of Bain, Jon Butala and Mark Bergstrom turned in career games. Bain finished with a double-double with 16 points and 15 rebounds, Butalla added a game-high 23 points and Bergstrom tallied 22 on a 9-of-16 shooting performance. Steve Banick 08 dished out a career-high 10 assists, many coming when the Oles most needed a hoop.
The contest went back and forth from the tip. St. Olaf built an early 16-10 lead before Bethel utilized a 13-0 run to go in front. However, the Oles countered with a 27-18 run of their own, escaping the first half ahead by two, 43-41.
In a hostile environment, head coach Dan Kosmoski was happy with not only the outcome, but his teams effort.
The way we came out of the gates, I couldnt have been more pleased, Kosmoski said. I told them in the locker room to just keep doing what they were doing and wed be fine.
And that they were.
The Oles led much of the second half. A Bain jump hook with 2:01 to play put St. Olaf up by six. Bethel, however, countered the Ole rampage with a 4-0 run. Down by two, Bethel needed a field goal to send the game to overtime. The Oles played exceptional defense for 25 seconds of the 30 second shot clock, but the Royals Mike Moberg was found underneath and capitalized on a lay-up to tie the score.
Bethel carried the momentum heading into the overtime period; however, the Oles were not fazed. Both teams traded baskets but St. Olaf possessed the final possesion with only five seconds to play. Kosmoski drew up a miracle play, a classic screen the screener inbounds play from midcourt. A streaking Bain finished with only one defender on his hip, connecting on what must have been his most memorable hoop as an Ole.
Wednesday night at St. Thomas, however, the Oles simply could not contain the top three players in the MIAC, all former division I transfers. Center Isaac Roosevelt had a field day, scoring 25 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. The problem for the Oles was double-teaming Roosevelt, which would leave sharpshooters Bryan Schnettler and Mike Keating open from distance. Bains 16 points wasnt enough to match Schnettlers 21.
Kosmoski commended the Ole faithful that travelled to both playoff contests.
Was that outstanding or what? When its all said and done, I am so proud of the players, seniors, and students that came out to watch, Kosmoski said. At Bethel, for the students to get at center court after Bains layup and celebrate, that was something special.
The Oles finished 13-14 on the season.