Junior Jordan Honore gets trapped in the corner during the first half by Our Lady of the Lake University.
Photo by Pat Howell.
The Baker University men's basketball team advanced to the championship game of the Heart of America Athletic Conference Tournament and earned a bid to the NAIA Tournament. Relive the Wildcats' postseason competition through multimedia content.
The Baker University men’s basketball team faced a team in No. 7 Our Lady of the Lake University unlike any opponent it had seen all season in the first round of the NAIA National Tournament.
In BU’s first appearance in the Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship since 1941, the Wildcats lost to the Saints 103-88.
The Wildcats jumped out to a 21-6 lead in the first seven minutes, but the Saints pushed the tempo to force BU to turn the ball over to get back in the game.
“We got off to a great start and handled their pressure well early,” head coach Brett Ballard said. “We had about a six to seven minute stretch there where we didn’t execute and allowed them to get back into the game.”
Our Lady of the Lake went on a 38-21 run to close out the half to take a 44-42 halftime lead.
Baker’s offense attempted to keep pace with the Saints, but foul trouble to the Wildcats’ post players affected their game plan.
“(Senior) Jack (Shortell) and (junior) Samer (Jassar) are our biggest guys on the team and they lead our team in rebounding,” Wachter said. “With them off the court, it hurt us a little bit, but we had guys step up. I thought (senior) Ryan Douvier had a great game.”
BU cut down the number of turnovers in the second half, but OLL’s Robert Martinez 3-point shooting helped the Saints add on to their lead. Martinez had a game-high 36 points and hit 10 3-pointers.
“We knew they shot a lot of 3-pointers,” sophomore Todd Eils said. “We just wanted to try to put a hand in their face and we didn’t do that a couple of possessions. (Martinez) really got going.”
The ‘Cats had one of their best offense outputs of the season by shooting 54 percent from the field. Four Wildcats scored in double figures with juniors Jordan Honore and Ben Steinlage leading the way with 17 and 16 points, respectively.
Although the Wildcats were unable to come out on top, the experience of qualifying for the national tournament was particularly special for Wachter.
“If you asked me two years ago if I would have a chance to play in the national tournament, I would have said that you were crazy,” Wachter said. “It’s amazing the progression this team has had these past two years. To be able to play in the national tournament my senior year is something special.”
While BU will lose five seniors in Wachter, Shortell, Douvier, Connor Bechard and Tim Randolph, Eils is confident that the eight returners will help lead BU to another appearance in the national tournament next season.
“The seniors are very important to our team, so they’re going to be hard to replace,” Eils said. “We’re going to be hungry and we’re going to get back here. That is for sure.”