By Andrew Gogerty
ANKENY, Iowa—Last season's "Cardiac Kids" are at it again. Picking right back up from where they left off a year ago, it only took one game into the 2020-21 season for the men's basketball team to win another battle that went to the final seconds as the Eagles won their season opener, 73-72, over Ozark Christian.
It seems the nucleus from last year's squad wouldn't want it any other way. For the foursome of Kalab Sidlinger, Noah Boyer, Jason Conable, and Jayce Goergen, it's their calling card. It's how they roll. Game on the line? No pressure. They seem to thrive in those circumstances, and while two straight years of high-stress moments can't be great for the health of Coach Brian Fincham's heart (along with the rest of the fans that cheer them on), as long as they keep winning, it sure is fun.
Whether they are up by ten or down by ten, the Cardiac Kids' games always seem to come down to the final possession. That's exactly the way it played out on Friday against Ozark in the first of back-to-back days of the Faith Invitational Basketball Tournament.
The first half featured six ties and eight lead changes—a harbinger of how the second half was going to go. Faith's largest deficit was three points and its largest lead was six. Coach Fincham's squad featured a balanced scoring attack in the first half with five players scoring at least five points, including some solid bench play from a trio of freshmen—Jared Pearson, Tyler Carson, and Carson Odle.
If there was a poster child for the Cardiac Kids, the one who seems to want the ball the most in those tense moments with the game on the line, it would have to be Kalab Sidlinger. After a cold-shooting first half (3 of 12 shooting; 0-4 from three point distance), those who follow Eagles basketball knew the streaky shooter was primed for a big second half. And was he ever. Sidlinger scored 18 points in the half and was three of six from three point range, with all three of those coming in the critical last five minutes of the game.
Sidlinger's first made three-pointer came with 4:26 remaining, which extended the Eagles lead from three to six points. After Ozark cut the lead to three again, Sidlinger answered a second time with another three-pointer with two minutes remaining to stretch Faith's lead back to six. Ozark answered again, with another three of their own, cutting Faith's lead back to three (70-67), but Sidlinger threw the final haymaker—a dagger of a three pointer that would wind up being the game-winning basket—with 1:24 left to play. The Eagles would not score for the remainder of the game, but their six-point lead was just enough to preserve the win as Ozark missed a last-second shot at the buzzer.
Sidlinger finished with 25 points to lead the way for the Eagles. He also added 12 rebounds and 3 blocked shots. Noah Boyer added 12 points, as did freshman Jared Pearson, who had a great collegiate debut with 12 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 steals. Jayce Goergen scored 11 points, and freshman Carson Odle had a fantastic collegiate debut of his own with 8 points and 4 rebounds, providing some much-needed three-point shooting off the bench. Tyler Carson and Jason Conable rounded out the scoring for Faith with 3 points and 2 points.
Faith looks to capitalize off its thrilling, season-opening win with another on Saturday afternoon. The Eagles square off against Trinity Bible College at 4 p.m. in the Nettleton Center.