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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, March 13, 2018 9:00 pm

Saint Francis loses in NAIA title game

TOM SAVAGE | For The Journal Gazette

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Defense was the point of order again for Saint Francis in the NAIA Division II national tournament. The effort was there for the Cougars, but this time, it just wasn’t enough.

A frenzied second-half run fell short for Saint Francis, as it lost 84-71 to Indiana Wesleyan in the national championship game Tuesday at the Sanford Pentagon. It’s the fourth time this season Indiana Wesleyan has defeated Saint Francis, and the eighth time overall.

The Cougars (29-9) erased a 17-point second half deficit and cut the lead to one point on five different occasions down the stretch. The last time they got it to one was with 5:28 to play on a Bryce Lienhoop basket. But they could never get over the hump and IWU extended the lead to as many as 13 in the final seconds.

For the fourth straight game, Derek Hinen led the Cougars with 24 points. He also finished with five rebounds and four assists.

Lienhoop added 17 points and nine rebounds.

IWU freshman and Warsaw native Kyle Mangas led the Wildcats with 23 points on 8-of-15 shooting from the field. Mangas was the Crossroads League Freshman and Player of the year.

Down 82-17 with 12 seconds to play, St. Francis coach Chad LaCross emptied the bench and conceded the loss. The Cougars last won a national championship in 2010.