Vikings drop heartbreaker to No. 22 MNU
OLATHE, Kan. -- The Missouri Valley College men's basketball team may be on the bubble for inclusion in the Heart of America Conference Post-season Tournament, but isn't letting it burst without a fight.
Just ask 22nd-ranked MidAmerica Nazarene, which held off the Vikings' charge Saturday to pull out a 78-77 home win. Valley had a chance to win the game in the final seconds, but 6-foot-8 junior Luke Thomas blocked senior Michael Connor's shot to preserve the victory.
The Pioneers led by as many as 13 points during the first half, but a 15-4 run keyed by three-pointers from freshman Jordan Epps and junior Jim Thomas and back-to-back buckets by senior James Pope had the margin down to two points by halftime.
Epps and junior Kendall Hays combined for 19 points as the Vikings' 29-13 spree over a 10-minute span of the second half had them up by 12 points.
MidAmerica rallied for a 20-4 roll, getting three goals from Luke Thomas, to go up by four points with under two minutes remaining. Epps connected from downtown with 54 seconds left, Thomas missed on the other end and junior Law Brown collected the defensive rebound.
Valley set up a play on a timeout with 23 seconds to go, getting the ball to Connor, whose shot was rejected with one second left.
Senior Rustin Dowd scored 23 points for the Pioneers (21-7, 13-3 HAAC), who out-shot the visitors 43.9 to 36.5 percent from the field.
Epps finished with 29 points and five assists for the Vikings (9-19, 4-12), who lost their seventh straight game.
The Valley women, also in the hunt for eighth place, were soundly whipped by No. 7 MidAmerica, 62-45.
The Lady Pioneers took a 12-point lead into the break and never let it dip into single digits, building it to as high as 22 points during the second half.
Twelve players scored for MidAmerica (25-2, 15-1), topped by 10 points each from juniors Rachel Boan and Kendra Flemming.
Sophomore Samantha Kixmiller had a game-high 11 points for the Lady Vikings (7-21, 4-12).
Both Valley teams are in ties for the final tourney spot, Avila -- who they visit Thursday -- among those in the mix.