The Eagle men finished out the regular season portion of their first semester of play with two disappointing losses. Faith fell to nationally ranked and region defending champion North Central University by eight points on Friday night, then followed up on Saturday with a two point loss to Association Free Lutheran Bible School (AFLBS). The losses send Faith into the break with a 5-4 record, and a 1-2 regional record. Faith will be the #3 seed at the regional tournament in February, and will face host and #2 seed Trinity Bible College in the semi-final game.
Friday night's game saw the Eagles get back to playing to their potential for the first 30 minutes of the game, as they jumped up by as many as 12 on North Central. The Rams cut the Eagles lead to three at the half with an 11-2 run over the final three minutes of the first half, as North Central took advantage of the Eagles going 1/6 from the floor during that stretch. Faith ran the lead back up to 7 start the second half, then maintained that lead through the first 10 minutes of the second half. North Central began closing the gap, tying the game at 62 apiece with eight and a half to play. The Rams would then take a two point lead and hold that lead until Faith re-took the lead by two on a three with five minutes to play. North Central had an answer with their own three to take the lead for good, as a couple empty posessions by Faith forced the Eagles to begin fouling. North Central made their free-throws to seal the win as the Eagles fell by eight.
Faith had five men finish in double digits, with Jon Luke Talton leading the Eagles with 22 points including 5/5 from behind the arc. Josh Bray added 18 points and eight rebounds, and was one of three Eagles who finished with four assists. Ryan Kufperschmid scored 15 points and had four assists, while Aaron Leistikow added 14 points and four assists. Cody Chaffin rounded out the Eagles scoring with 12. Faith made more free throws and threes than the Rams, but simply gave North Central too many offensive possessions as the Rams tallied 73 field goal attempts to the Eagles 64.
Saturday's game was nearly identical to Friday's in terms of the Eagles leading for much of the game before faltering at the end. Faith jumped out to an early lead and then built it to 15 at the break. Sloppy play by Faith to start the second half allowed AFLBS to open with an 8-0 run. Faith would then hold that lead for 10 minutes, leading 65-56 with 10 to play. AFLBS pulled within three off a 6-0 run fueled by a jumper and what would become the story of the night with four made free throws over the next minute and a half. Faith pushed it back to five, but AFLBS rarely had an empty posession for the rest of the night, shooting free throws or hitting key shots over the final eight minutes.
AFLBS finally overtook the Eagles with four minutes to play at 73-72. Faith's Aaron Leistikow gave the Eagles the lead back with under a minute on an and one, but Faith failed to get a defensive stop at the other end as AFLBS took the lead for good on a bucket in the paint. Faith ran a play and had the look they wanted, but a bad pass led to a turnover. The Eagles had to foul and AFLBS made one free throw to lead 81-79. Faith drew a foul on the next play with 3.7 seconds remaining, but missed their first free throw. Needing a bucket, the Eagles intentionally missed the free throw and got the offensive rebound, but missed the tip in. The clock never started on the play, and the officials awarded the ball to AFLBS. Faith then got a tie up on the inbounds which would have given the Eagles the ball back, but AFLBS was awarded a timeout. with .3 seconds left. Faith stole the inbounds pass and attempted a shot with considerable contact, but the game was called and the Eagles lost.
Faith outshot AFLBS, made more threes, and outrebounded the Conquerors, but couldn't overcome a large differential in free throws. AFLBS made 24 free throws on 33 attempts, while the Eagles were awarded only 19 total free throw attempts. Aaron Leistikow finished with 20 points and seven assists. Jon Luke Talton scored 15 points and grabbed 9 rebounds, while Ryan Kupferschmid added 14 and 3 steals. John Acree had 11 points off the bench for the Eagles.
Faith will play one more game before heading to break, an exhibition contest for the Eagles with NCAA II Truman State University. That game will be on Monday, December 15, at 7:00 PM in Kirksville, MO.