POINT LOOKOUT, Mo. -- Head coach Greg Tonagel and Indiana Wesleyan University won the NAIA Division II Men’s Basketball National Championship to complete the most dominant run in the tournament’s history.
No. 5 Indiana Wesleyan defeated No. 10 Midland (Neb.) 78-68 in the national championship game that was played in Keeter Gymnasium in Point Lookout, Missouri. The title game was broadcast on ESPN3.
“I can’t put this into words,” said senior guard Jordan Weidner (SR/Danville, Ind.). “It’s such a reward for all the hard work, all the extra time, all the practices, and all the terrible ice baths. This just makes it all so worth it. And I couldn’t have asked for a better group of guys to do it with.”
Weidner and his teammates created a lot of new marks for the national tournament record books. But the one that stands out the most was that all five Wildcat victories were by double digits. It is the first time any team has accomplished that feat at the NAIA Division II Tournament since its inception in 1992.
“Most times when you win the tournament something lucky has to happen, like a buzzer beater or you dodge a buzzer beater,” said freshman Lane Mahurin (FR/Rockville, Ind.). “In each game we have come out and said we are going to win this because we will play hard, and we did that.”
“We were in control throughout the game,” said Tonagel. “I felt good about our guys and they have been locked in since we got out here. To win every single game by double digits speaks of the focus and energy that we had. And with the senior leadership of Jordan, he just wasn’t going to let us lose.”
Weidner was named the 2014 Championship Outstanding Player for his performance over the last five games. Weidner averaged 23.0 points per game in Point Lookout while shooting 51.4-percent from the field. He pulled down 4.4 rebounds in the tournament and averaged 5.6 assists.
Freshman Lane Mahurin was honored with the NAIA Championship Hustle Award while Tonagel was named the NABC/NAIA Division II Coach of the Year. The Wildcats were also given the Dr. James Naismith/Emil Liston Team Sportsmanship Award.
“This is such an incredible group to be a part of,” said Indiana Wesleyan associate head coach Jeff Clark. “If you had any idea of what was going on in the hotel and the locker room this past week, just the way the Lord was moving in their hearts, it was almost like basketball was secondary. These guys just latched on to everything Coach Tonagel said and everything our leaders did. It was a really special group to be a part of.”
The Wildcats shattered the national tournament record for made free throws with 128. The previous record was 108 set by Northwestern in 2008. Weidner earned the second most free throws made in a single tournament with 36 and is fifth in his career with 64. IWU scored the eighth most points in a tournament with 440 points and had the seventh most rebounds with 215 this week.
In the championship game Indiana Wesleyan never trailed and once again got off to a quick start. With the game less than seven minutes old IWU already built a double digit lead at 17-7. But Midland went on an 11-2 spurt to close it to a single point at 19-18. Indiana Wesleyan stretched their advantage up to seven points again in the half before taking a 36-31 lead into halftime.
With a 40-36 lead early in the second half, Indiana Wesleyan exploded for a 9-0 run to gain its largest lead of the game at that point at 51-38. The lead grew to 56-40 with 12:09 to play but Midland responded with eight unanswered points to close the gap to 56-48.
After trading buckets, Indiana Wesleyan scored nine consecutive points for a 67-50 lead as 6:27 showed on the clock. Midland would not go quietly as they answered back with a 13-3 run to close the deficit to 70-63 with 2:22 to play. But an RJ Mahurin (SR/Rockville, Ind.) basket on the next IWU possession and a defensive stop secured the victory. Weidner, Zac Vandewater (JR/Warsaw, Ind.), and Lane Mahurin hit 5-of-6 free throws on the next three possessions to prevent any Midland comeback ideas.
“I’m just so proud of these guys,” stated Tonagel. “I’m proud of these seniors. I’m humbled by this opportunity that was given to our team. This will be a lifelong memory.”
Weidner led all players with 21 points and 5 assists while RJ Mahurin added 19 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 blocked shots. Lane Mahurin chipped in 11 points, 7 boards, and 3 blocks and Zac Vandewater added 10 points and 10 rebounds.
The motto of the 2013-14 season for the Wildcats was Fearless. That approach highlighted the best season in program history and was evident for all to see this past week in Point Lookout.
“Around mid-season we really started to hone in on it,” Tonagel said of the team’s drive towards the title. “We were given a vision last spring that this year was going to be about fearlessness. As our guys grew in that concept they would chose courage and faith over fear and the team took off. I saw a whole bunch of growth off the court and then we started to take off on the court. So much of our success on the court had to do with what was going on off the court.”
The Indiana Wesleyan season comes to a close with a 31-6 record. The 31 wins are the most in program history, surpassing 30 win seasons in 2007 and 2010.