Hastings College head men’s basketball coach Bill Gavers constantly tells his team “No lead is safe, no deficit is too great.”
That’s how Hastings College had to play Saturday, and the Broncos nearly flirted with the wrong end of that philosophy.
After leading Briar Cliff by as many as 26 points in Lynn Farrell Arena, the Chargers got hot from 3-point land and quickly slimmed the margin to just seven with less than a minute remaining in the game.
But a breakaway dunk and some free throws clinched the Broncos’ fourth straight victory 96-88, as they climbed into seventh place in the Great Plains Athletic Conference at 13-10 overall, and 6-7 in league play.
“The focus has to be on that we played so well for 32 minutes,” HC head coach Bill Gavers said. “Briar Cliff can score. I thought our defense in the first 32 minutes was phenomenal. It was active, disrupting things, and we guarded the arc well. And at the end, I think we relaxed just a tiny bit and they’re the type of team that can shoot it, and teams in this league can get back into games.”
Briar Cliff ranks third in the NAIA in 3-pointers made per game (12.9), and 13th in 3-point shooting percentage (39.6%).
Hastings College doesn’t rank nearly as high in either category (16th and 26th, respectively), but went shot-for-shot from beyond the arc with the Chargers Saturday.
The teams split a combined 28 3-pointers. The Hastings team record for made 3s in a game is 18.
Shane Chamberlain, who started 28 of 31 games as a freshman a year ago, has taken on more of a role off the bench this season. But with the absence of Bart Hiscock due to pneumonia, Chamberlain filled in the starting spot and made the most of his opportunity.
Chamberlain began the second half with a transition dunk off a Briar Cliff turnover. Then four minutes later, the sophomore poured in five straight 3-pointers on six Bronco possessions, which paced an 18-4 run. He later added an uncontested two-handed slam in the closing seconds on a lead pass from Mason Hiemstra to finish with 21 points.
“My teammates keep me going,” Chamberlain said of the hot streak. “Whenever I make one or two, they tell me to keep it going.”
He finished the game 8-for-11 from the floor, and 5-for-7 from beyond the arc.
“I haven’t been playing the best or most consistent, so it was nice to have a good game like that,” Chamberlain said.
“He was huge today,” Gavers added. “He just shot it with a lot of confidence. He went on a personal run and said ‘Okay, we’re going to take charge of this game here.’ We needed that out of him.”
Chamberlain made all three of his attempts from beyond the arc in Wednesday’s upset of No. 10 Dakota Wesleyan.
“He’s finding his confidence and he’s playing at a high level,” Gavers said.
Hiemstra, who recorded back-to-back career highs in points coming into Saturday, finished with more than 20 points for the third straight game. The freshman nicknamed “Bulldog” hit 9-of-15 from the floor with three 3s.
Karson Gansebom, a freshman from Bennington, splashed five 3-pointers and two free throws for 17 points. Zach Kitten and Brendan Lipovsky were also in double figures with 13 and 11 points, respectively.
“We’re getting a lot of contributions from a lot of different guys on a lot of different fronts,” Gavers said.
Hastings shot 58 percent for the game. Briar Cliff finished at 48 percent.
The Chargers’ 10 3s in the second half put them back in contention. Ethan Freidel, Jackson Lamb, and Conner Groves each drained triples in the final minute to put HC on its heels. But Logan Cale sunk five of six free throws, and Lipovsky added a pair to put the game on ice for the Broncos.
Lamb led the Chargers with 17 points. Freidel added 12, and Jaden Kleinhesselink had 11.
Hiscock’s 21.3 points and 8.4 rebounds and 6-foot, 6-inch frame left a sizable void to be filled. But Gavers was more worried about confidence, especially after Briar Cliff raced out to an 8-0 lead.
“They punched us early and we responded and came back on them. Obviously, playing without Bart, those first three minutes were new to us,” Gavers said.
“I thought our guys’ confidence level was still good (without Bart). We’ve been playing some really good basketball the last four games.”
Gavers feels the most growth has shown in defensive effort.
“I can’t say enough about the strides we’ve made defensively. Our talking is better, our stances are better, our urgency is better. So that’s just paid off,” he said.
Hastings answered Briar Cliff’s 8-0 lead with a 9-3 run. And then after trailing 16-9, the Broncos scored 21 of the game’s next 24 points to lead 30-19. They never trailed beyond that point.
“Obviously we want to get Bart back and get him healthy because he’s been a great 4-year guy for us and he’s a player of the year candidate in this league,” Gavers said.
“We’re playing at a really high level right now and the challenge is to sustain it. Our preparation has been good, our focus has been good. It’s just been really dialed in and we’ve got to continue that. We’ve got seven league games left and there’s a lot of jockeying for position for the conference tournament.”
The Broncos play No. 1 Morningside (22-0, 14-0) Wednesday. The Mustangs have taken seven of the last eight from Hastings. Their last three meetings — all Morningside wins — have been decided by an average of 28 points.
“We’ll find out some things because they’re obviously very good and beat us (95-77) back in Sioux City,” Gavers said. “It’ll be fun. We’ll have two good days of prep on Monday and Tuesday. We look forward to the opportunity.”
Briar Cliff 35 53 88
Hastings 45 51 96
Briar Cliff (88)
Jake Carley 1-4 2-2 5, Nick Hoyt 2-6 0-0 6, Jackson Lamb 5-11 5-6 17, Ethan Freidel 4-12 0-0 12, Tony Bonner 2-3 1-2 5, Thomas Hensley 0-0 0-0 0, Jaden Kleinhesselink 5-8 0-0 11, Conner Groves 2-5 0-0 6, Quinn Vesey 2-5 0-0 4, Wil Johnson 2-2 1-1 6, Codey Hicks 2-2 0-2 4, Austin Roetman 5-9 1-2 12. Totals 32-67 10-15 88.
Hastings College (96)
Mason Hiemstra 9-15 0-0 21, Karson Gansebom 5-7 2-2 17, Brendan Lipovsky 3-9 5-8 11, Zack Johnson 0-0 0-0 0, Logan Cale 0-2 5-6 5, Eli Hunter 1-1 0-0 3, Shane Chamberlain 8-11 0-0 21, Zach Kitten 5-7 3-7 13, Ryan Ierna 1-3 3-4 5. Totals 32-55 18-27 96.
Three-point FG:Briar Cliff 14-33 (Carley 1-1, Hoyt 2-5, Lamb 2-6, Freidel 4-9, Kleinhesselink 1-2, Groves 2-5, Vesey 0-2, Johnson 1-1, Roetman 1-2), Hastings College 14-27 (Hiemstra 3-8, Gansebom 5-7, Lipovsky 0-3, Cale 0-1, Hunter 1-1, Chamberlain 5-7). Rebounds: Briar Cliff 29 (Kleinhesselink 9), Hastings College 30 (Lipovsky 8). Fouls Briar Cliff 19, Hastings College 15. Assists: Briar Cliff 16 (Kleinhesselink 4, Roetman 4), Hastings College 19 (Lipovsky 6). Steals: Briar Cliff 5 (Roetman 3), Hastings College 8 (Hiemstra 3). Blocked shots: Briar Cliff 2 (Lamb 1, Kleinhesselink 1), Hastings College 5 (Kitten 2, Ierna 2). Turnovers: Briar Cliff 13, Hastings College 16.