For 28 minutes on Saturday afternoon, the Eagle men looked destined to fall to a solid defending conference champion as they faced off against Manhattan Christian College. However, the Eagles were able to string together an impressive final 12 minutes of basketball to pull off the upset and defeat Manhattan 92-90. Faith moves to 3-0 on the year with the win, and sits at 2-0 early in conference play.
The game was a slow moving affair for the first 28 minutes, although the Eagles were able to hang with the Thunder despite an awful first half of shooting, thanks in part to Aaron Leistikow's offensive play. In fact, with 10 minutes to go in the first half, Faith held a slim 20-19 lead. However, over the next 10 minutes, Manhattan would punish the Eagles down low, while Faith struggled to implement any portion of their game plan and allowed Manhattan to close out the half on a 26-14 run for a 45-33 lead. Faith allowed Manhattan to shoot 55% in the first half while struggling to score on their end, shooting 34% in the half.
The Eagles struggles continued for the first 8 minutes of the second half, with Manhattan building a 14 point lead and the Eagles looking like they were going to fall to the defending champs. However, dynamic defensive play by senior captain Eric Young, combined with an amazing offensive display by Ryan Kuperschmid led to an Eagles rally. Faith was able to begin to string together stops, and combined it with great team play at the other end to either get good shots or get to the free throw line. Initially in a span of two and a half minutes, Kupferschmid scored 11 points, combined with 4 from John Acree and a free throw by Josh Bray to bring the Eagles all the way back to tie the game at 65 apiece with 10 minutes to play.
Manhattan responded with a quick basket to retake the lead, but Kupferschmid was just getting started. The Eagles made one free throw on their next offensive possession and Manhattan scored on theirs to take a 3 point lead. On the Eagles next possession, Kupferschmid was fouled on the arm while shooting a three, which he made, to tie the game back at 69 apiece. Ryan then hit the free throw to give Faith a 70-69 lead. The game was back and forth, with Manhattan again able to take a three point lead, and Kupferschmid again hit a three to tie the game back up. Manhattan drew a foul and made both free throws, but it was Cody Chaffin getting in on the act next, hitting his own three to give Faith a one point lead. Faith was called for another foul on the next possession, on which Manhattan converted on one of two free throws to tie it up, but the three ball was in play for Faith for a third consecutive trip, as Josh Bray knocked one down from the top of the key to push the Eagle lead to three.
Not to be outdone, Manhattan hit a contested line drive three to tie the game back up, with Faith retaking a two point lead on two Eric Young free throws with two and a half to play. Faith was called for another foul on the next play. Manhattan made the first free throw and missed the next, but Faith again drew the ref's whistle on the rebound. Manhattan's Sage Ruis hit both to give a one point lead back to Manhattan with just over a minute and a half. Josh Bray was able to draw a foul for Faith and knocked down both which put the lead at 89-88 with just over a minute to play.
Faith finally got a stop withouth fouling despite giving up an offensive rebound and second shot to take possession just under a minute. Faith then spread the court and allowed Josh Bray to go to work. Bray drew the defense and found Kupferschmid with just seconds left on the shot clock. Ryan hit another three and Faith led by four with 20 seconds left. Manhattan missed a three but Faith gave up another offensive rebound and got called for a foul. Manhattan made both free throws and called a timeout with 8 seconds left. Faith was able to get the ball in against the press, then threw it over the top and avoided getting fouled by Manhattan to run out the clock and escape with a 92-90 win.
Kupferschmid led the Eagles with 25 points, 23 of which he scored in the final 12 minutes of the game. Ryan went 6/11 from behind the arc. In addition to Kupferschmid, the Eagles had three other men finish in double digits. Cody Chaffin scored 19 including 5/10 from behind the arc, while Aaron Leistikow kept the Eagles in the game with 23 points and 10 rebounds. Josh Bray also finished in double digits with 10 points. Eric Young had a solid night, handing out 7 assists while playing a key role defensively for the Eagles grabbing two steals. Chaffin added five assists as well. Faith scored 43 points over the final 12 minutes of play in the win.
The Eagles will head to Oskaloosa, IA, on Tuesday for an exhibition contest with nationally ranked NAIA William Penn University. Faith will host their annual Faith Classic next weekend. The Eagles will face NAIA Lincoln Christian University on Friday at 8:00 PM, and will then face NCAA III Iowa Wesleyan on Saturday at 6:00 PM in the Eagles only remaining Bible college home games during the first semester.