For the fifth time this season, the Hastings College men's basketball team hosted a team ranked or receiving votes in the NAIA top-25 poll at Lynn Farrell Arena. And for the first time this season, the Broncos were not victorious.
The No. 13 Broncos fell to No. 5 Dordt on Saturday 78-74. Free throws proved key for the Defenders, who finished 33-for-46 at the charity stripe.
"The game was obviously very physical. Hastings is a strong team and they're a veteran team and they know how to play," said Dordt head coach Ross Douma. "We felt, for us to be successful, we had to get to the foul line today."
The Hastings College defense rose to the occasion against the GPAC's top scoring offense. Dordt (23-2 overall, 14-1 GPAC) had eclipsed 100 points five times this season and averaged 90.3 points per game going into Saturday, but the Broncos (17-6, 11-3) held the Defenders to 78 points and 38.8 percent shooting from the field. Dordt averages 49.1 percent.
"I really feel like for 36 1/2, 37 minutes on the defensive side we were great. We were in position, we were active and we were taking away the things that Dordt beats you with," said Hastings College head coach Bill Gavers. "We had a 3 to 3 1/2 minute stretch where it really hurt us on the defensive side."
HC trailed 35-25 at halftime, but opened the second half on a 9-2 run to pull within three points.
With 10 minutes, 38 seconds remaining in the game, HC's Brandon Krause received the outlet pass off of a Dordt miss and raced down the court, making a fastbreak layup and drawing the foul. Krause hit the free throw to tie the game at 49-all.
But the Defenders put together a run of their own. Dordt scored 12 of the next 14 points to take a 61-51 lead with 7:15 remaining.
Hastings College's Tobin Reinwald and Brady Lollman combined to score the next 12 points for the Broncos. Reinwald capped the stretch with a 3-pointer that cut the lead to 67-63 with 4:30 left in the game.
Most of the final 2:31 was a free-throw shooting contest between the two teams. With just six seconds remaining, Lollman hit a 3-pointer from well beyond the arc to make it a 76-74 Defender lead. After an HC foul, Dordt's Kyle Lindbergh sunk one of two free throws, missing the second. But the Defenders, the GPAC's top offensive rebounding team, battled for the rebound and regained possession. Dordt's Austin Katje was fouled and put the game away after making one of his two free throw attempts.
"The two things we talk about a lot are confidence and courage, and I think our players had both. We just fell short," Gavers said. "We had a little lapse there. You can't relax for a split second against really good teams."
Katje was a thorn in the Broncos' side all game. He finished with 33 points and drained six 3-pointers on 10 attempts.
"Katje is a great player. He's shooting 45 percent from the arc on the year," Gavers said.
"Early in the game, we felt we still have to stop them from getting in the paint, so we had to help and recover on him. He made us pay a little bit. We changed our strategy on him and went with no help. We did a better job, but you have to tip your hat to him. He made some big shots."
Dordt's second-leading scorer Dalton Franken did not play in the game, which left the door open for Katje.
"We understand we had to drive some offense from some other guys with Dalton Franken not playing. Austin stepped up. He looked for his opportunities, and he hit his first couple of 3-pointers, which got him going," Douma said.
Lollman led Hastings College with 26 points. He shot 6-for-6 from the free-throw line and hit a pair of big treys, helping keep the Broncos in the game.
"(Lollman's) just a clutch player. Down the stretch we're down five and he pulls up and hits the 3. He wants the ball in those situations," Gavers said. "He's just a leader. He's a guy who we look to, to make plays in clutch situations. He's done it all year and I'm sure he'll continue doing that."
Krause finished with 14 points, and Reinwald tallied 12. Brett Wells recorded a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
With just six games left on the schedule, HC will hit the road for its next two. The Broncos play at Doane on Wednesday at 8 p.m. and at Mount Marty on Saturday.
"Something we've said all year is the most important game is the next one," Gavers said.
"We go to Doane Wednesday night, and we understand what that will bring in the rivalry with Doane.
"We have two road games in a row. That's something we talked about, is that we have to get back up right away. We can't have a hangover from this. We have to get back up off the mat. That's what great teams do."