CRESTON — Falling into a 7-0 hole in the opening two minutes left 15th-ranked Kirkwood playing from behind the entire afternoon Saturday at top-ranked Southwestern for the Region XI men's basketball championship.
The Eagles battled back twice within two points in the first half and closed it to a single point (70-69) with 8:25 to play, but the Spartans hung on for a 98-90 victory.
The defending national champion Eagles ended their season at 25-7. Southwestern (32-1) advances to the NJCAA Division II national tournament March 21-25 in Danville, Ill. The Spartans' only loss of the season was a 78-75 setback at Kirkwood on Jan. 11.
Southwestern stretched its early lead to 20-8 before the Eagles went on an 8-0 run to close it to 20-16. Kirkwood coach Bryan Petersen said the slow start made it too much of an uphill battle.
"Our kids battled back to get within striking distance several times, but we just didn't have enough to get over the top," Petersen said.
A highlight for the Eagles offensively was sophomore Byron Harp of Ankeny. He was 9-of-10 at the free throw line in the first half and finished 19-of-20 at the line while scoring a career-best 35 points.Read more...