For just the second time this semester, the Eagle men came up short in a basketball game. Having advanced to the regional championship, the Eagles simply couldn't hit enough shots or get enough stops to defeat a balanced North Central Unviersity team, falling 77-89 in the championship. Faith is 22-6 on the year.
For much of the first half, the Eagles were able to hang with North Central. Faith never led by more than 5, but held the lead for the first 15 minutes of the game, holding a slim 24-22 lead with 5 minutes left in the half. Foul trouble combined with an injury to Jon Luke Talton found the Eagles struggling to score in the final five minutes of the half, and NCU took adavantage, stringing together a 14-4 run to close the half and take an 8 point lead into the break.
Out of the break, Faith took two early contested shots, while NCU pounded the ball down low on their first possessions for a quick 4-0 run to push the lead to double digits. NCU maintained a double digit lead for the next 11 minutes, as the Eagles offense was better, but their defense failed to get the necessary stops. Faith was able to put together one final run, a 16-10 run to pull within 7 with four and a half to play, but North Central would hit big shot after big shot, stifling any Eagle run, while making the necessary free throws to win the game.
The Eagles struggled from behind the arc, as they got open looks but just couldn't hit. Faith finished shooting 47% overall, but only 22% from three. North Central shot 54% overall, including 40% from behind the arc. Aaron Leistikow led the Eagles with 22 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals. Josh Bray added 17 points, but a normally balanced attack for the Eagles failed to materialize as no other Eagle finished in double digits.
Faith next travels to Joplin, MO, for the Association of Christian College Athletics (ACCA) National Tournament. The Eagles will enter as the #4 seed, and will face #5 seed Rhema Bible College in the first round of the tournament. That game is set to tip at 8:30 PM on March 4th. Faith last faced Rhema in the first round of the ACCA National Tournament a year ago. Rhema defeated the Eagles 92-75.