One point prevents Jacks from advancing to the Elite Eight

Toby Uecker

Toby Uecker

For the South Dakota State University men’s basketball team, one point proved to be the difference between taking a trip to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight and taking a loss from Metropolitan State.

The Jacks fell to Metro State 87-86 in front of a home crowd at Frost Arena in the championship game of the North Central Regional March 10, ending a season that saw SDSU crowned with both the regular season and postseason titles in the North Central Conference.

Luke Kendall hit the baseline jumper that proved to be the game-winning basket with 6.6 seconds left in the game. The shot followed a layup and free throw by Matt Jones that put SDSU up 86-85 with 18 seconds remaining.

The Jacks led 40-38 at halftime, having bounced back from a 20-5 Metro State run through the middle of the first half. After intermission, the game saw 15 lead changes and eight ties. The two teams were not separated by more than seven points in the second half. Kendall, who had 38 points on the game and 28 in the second half, was named the Most Valuable Player for the tournament. Teammate Patrick Mutombo added 14 points for the Roadrunners.

The Jacks had five players in double figures on the game, including Derrick Schantz with 18, Jones with 16 as well as 16 rebounds, Austin Hansen with 16, and Josh Cerveny and Andy Cone with 13 each.

Kendall, Mutombo, Cerveny, Schantz and UNO center Adam Wetzel made up the all-tournament team.

SDSU advanced to the regional with a first round bye and a 96-76 victory over conference rival the University of Nebraska-Omaha in second round action. The game against UNO saw all five SDSU starters as well as reserve Cerveny reach double figures. Schantz led the Jacks with 23, Hansen and Andy Moeller scored 15 apiece, Cerveny had 14, Jones posted 12 and Cone tallied 10.

For Metro State, the road to the regional final included a 66-61 victory over the University of Minnesota-Duluth in the first round and a 59-51 defeat of the University of Nebraska-Kearney in the semi-finals. The game was the fourth appearance in the regional final in seven years for the Jacks, who have made it to the regional tournament six out of the seven seasons since Coach Scott Nagy took over the program.

Metro State has made the trip from Denver to the regional final the past five years, winning the game previously in 1999 and 2000.

This year’s win, the Roadrunner’s third in four years, set up Metro State for a showdown with Cal State-San Bernadino in the opening round of the Elite Eight. The team currently holds a 26-6 record on the season.

For the 2001-2002 season, SDSU finished with a 24-6 record. The regional final was the Jacks’ only loss in Frost Arena.

After a season with the many successes the Jacks enjoyed, the team loses only one senior, Andy Cone, a 6-9 native of Excelsior, Minn. Cone averaged eight points and over six rebounds per game this season and led the Jacks in blocked shots.