Furious rally can’t lift Saint Francis past rival in national title game

Saint Francis senior guard Derek Hinen is guarded by Indiana Wesleyan freshman Kyle Mangas during the 2018 NAIA Division II Men's Basketball national championship game Tuesday in Sioux Falls, S.D. Indiana Wesleyan won 84-71 for its third national title in five years. (Photo courtesy of Indiana Wesleyan Athletics)

Saint Francis put up a valiant and stunning effort in Tuesday’s NAIA Division II Men’s Basketball national championship game in Sioux Falls, S.D. However, a furious rally continually fell short, as the Cougars eventually fell to state and Crossroads League rival Indiana Wesleyan 84-71.

It was a rematch of the 2016 title game, which was also won by the Wildcats.

Indiana Wesleyan (32-7) has now won three national championships in the past five seasons, while Saint Francis (29-10) has fallen in three of the four national title games in which it has appeared since 2010.

Saint Francis fell behind by as many as 17 points early in the second half, but utilized an 11-0 run to pull to within 46-40 at the 14:45 mark.

Over a 5:11 stretch late in the second half, the Cougars cut their deficit to one point on six different occasions, yet never took the lead.

A 9-2 run by Indiana Wesleyan put it ahead 71-63 at the 3:18 mark of the second half and the Cougars never got closer than five points the remainder of the game.

Former Columbia City High School standout Derek Hinen made 8 of 13 shots in the second half to finish with a team-high 24 points in the loss, while senior center Bryce Lienhoop chipped in 17 points and nine boards for Saint Francis.

Former Warsaw High School star Kyle Mangas, who was the 2018 Crossroads League Player of the Year as a freshman for Indiana Wesleyan, scored a team-high 23 points, while junior center Evan Maxwell (20 points, eight rebounds) and senior forward Jacob Johnson (14 points) also contributed to the victory.

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