Basketball Team in NAIA National Tournament
The men’s basketball team came up just short of an upset victory in the first round of the 18th Annual NAIA National Tournament held at the College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Missouri, on March 11. Taking on No. 6 Indiana Wesleyan University (28-6), Trinity was in reach of the win for the entire 40 minutes, but came up six points short, 61-67, at the buzzer.
Facing a bigger line-up and national tournament jitters, the Trolls took a few minutes to get into the flow of the game. Despite coming up short in their offensive efforts with 37% shooting in the first period, the team’s defensive efforts kept them in the game. Through the first minutes of play they gave up only five points, posting a 12-5 lead.
Indiana Wesleyan came back behind 57% shooting to tie the game at 18-18 and then held the Trolls to just one basket in the final five minutes to take a 30-23 half-time lead.
In the first two minutes of the second period the seven-point gap increased to 13 points, 38-25, on an 8-2 Indiana Wesleyan run. Trinity came storming back and on a three-pointer from the top of the key by Jonathan Huizinga ’10 of Elmhurst, Illinois, they took the lead, 59-58, with 3:02 to play. They held that lead for the next minute until the Wildcats converted a three-point play to go ahead 61-59. The Trolls could not regain the lead and connected on only one more basket in the remaining time for the eventual six-point loss.
For the game the team shot 46.4% from the field and was only 23.1% from the three-point arc. They connected on six of their nine free throw attempts (66.7%). Ross Stuursma ’09 of Tinley Park, Illinois, led the scoring with 18 points, connecting on 8-of-10 of his attempts. Kurt Gruppen ’09 of Zeeland, Michigan, added 17 points while Alex Rusticus ’09 of Hudsonville, Michigan, scored eight points and pulled down 12 rebounds. Jonathan Huizinga had four rebounds and Michael Thompson ’10 of Macomb, Illinois, ended the game with five assists.
“I am very pleased with how the team played,” said Coach Tim Walker. “We played hard, defended well, and gave it all we had. It was a great experience to get to the national tournament again and to be able to compete with a top team in the nation.”
The Trolls, who tied for first in the conference, earned their way to the national tournament by capturing the conference tournament championship with a 56-53 victory over Cardinal Stritch University. It was the second NAIA national tournament appearance for the basketball program, which advanced for the first time in the 2004-05 season.
The Trolls finished their season with a 23-9 record, the second 20+ win season in row.
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