The Eagle men advanced to the MCC Conference Tournament championship for the second year in a row tonight with an 86-84 overtime win over Manhattan Christian College. Faith moves to 20-5 on the year. They will face #2 seeded and host of the tournament Barclay College in the championship game on Saturday at 4pm.
Early on it looked like the Eagles might run away with the game, as they jumped out to a 17 point 29-12 lead in the first ten minutes of the game. Manhattan, who has won at least a part of the regular season or tournament championship for the past eight years, showed why they are a championship program, as they closed out the half on a 24-13 run to pull within six of the Eagles. Faith led 42-36 at the break.
Out of the half, Manhattan switched up their defenses, which caused the Eagles some confusion early on. Manhattan took advantage, taking their first lead of the game, 50-49, with 15 minutes left in the game. The game then went back and forth, with each team taking small 2-4 point leads but neither able to find any separation. With two and a half to play, Jon Luke Talton made a free throw to give the Eagles a two point lead. Manhattan's Sage Ruis responded with a three to push Manhattan on top by 1, but the Eagles Cody Chaffin hit his own three to give Faith a two point lead. The Eagles played pretty well defensively for 32 seconds on the next possession, but Manhattan was able to get free for a driving layup to tie the game with 7 seconds remaining in regulation. Faith attempted to get to the rim for a game winning shot, but had it poked away, and a half court shot by Manhattan hit off the backboard and the front of the rim, sending the game to overtime.
Faith would strike first in OT, as Chaffin knocked down another three to give Faith the lead. Manhattan then got on the board with a free throw, then hit a three of their own to go up 1. It was Ryan Kupferschmid for the Eagles, though, as he hit a three to put Faith back on top by 2. Manhattan got to the line again, sinking both free throws to tie the game at 82 apiece with just over a minute and a half to play in the game. The Eagles continued to attack, and Aaron Leistikow found Jon Luke Talton under the basket to put Faith back on top with just over a minute to play. Faith finally got the stop they needed on the defensive end, then Josh Bray hit a driving layup to put Faith up by with 25 seconds to play. Faith forced Manhattan to run some clock, then were called for a foul with 11 seconds left, putting Manhattan at the line. The Thunder put both free throws in to pull within 2, then fouled the Eagles. Faith missed the front end of a one and one, but Ryan Kupferschmid grabbed the offensive rebound and was fouled by Manhattan with 5 seconds to play. Unfortunately, the Eagles again missed the front end of the free throw and Manhattan got the rebound and called timeout. Out of the timeout, Manhattan got the ball to half court and called another timeout. Faith locked down defensively out of the timeout, forcing a 5 second call on the Thunder. The Eagles then inbounded the ball and ran out the final 2 seconds to win the game.
As has been the case all year, the Eagles used a balanced scoring attack in the win. All five starters finished in double digits. Ryan Kupferschmid led the Eagles with 20. Cody Chaffin recorded a double double with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Josh Bray finished with 16 points, while Aaron Leistikow missed a triple double by one rebound, finishing the night with 15 points, 10 assists, and 9 rebounds. Jon LUke Talton had 6 assists of his own to go along with 11 points.
As a team , the Eagles held Manhattan to 43% from the floor, while Faith managed to shoot 47%. The Eagles were also able to out rebound Manhattan 47-33, including 15 offensive rebounds. Faith was able to pull out the victory in spite of a 4/11 effort from the free throw line. Faith failed to make a free throw in the second half and overtime. Faith shared the ball well again, as they recorded 24 assists on 34 made baskets.
Faith advances to the conference tournament championship. That game will tip at 4pm on Saturday. The Eagles have a tough challenge ahead of them, as they will face host Barclay College.