For Monmouth guard Will Carius, playing basketball has always been a way to escape. Having transferred to Monmouth from a Division II school before the season started, now Carius is playing in front of his friends and family, at the school where his father and grandfather played. Brian Lester has more in a D3hoops.com feature.
It will be the top two seeds battling for the Midwest Conference Men's Basketball Tournament title and the automatic NCAA berth that goes with it Saturday afternoon at Monmouth's Glennie Gym after Ripon handled St. Norbert 82-60 and Monmouth edged Lake Forest 87-81.
No. 2 seeded Ripon bested St. Norbert for the third time this season. After taking a 35-28 halftime lead, the Red Hawks stretched the lead well into double digits when Elliot Hoerdemann's 3-pointer ignited a 14-2 run to put the Red Hawks up 59-41 with 9:52 to play. Led by Isaac Masters' 22 points, Ripon maintained a comfortable lead for the remainder of the game to defeat the Green Knights for the third time this season. Mitchell Reinthaler paced the Green Knights with 24.
Midwest Conference regular season champion Monmouth fought back from a sluggish first half and used a nine-point swing at the end of the half to clip Lake Forest. Trailing by 16 with under two minutes left in the first half, Paul Engo III's layup was sandwiched between 3-pointers from D.J. Swift and Will Jones to pull the Scots within eight at 50-42 entering the intermission. Monmouth kept the momentum going in the second half, taking the lead for good at 61-60 on Stephon Bobbitt's layup. Engo followed with a steal, dunk-and-one at 11:56 as Monmouth built a seven-point lead, but needed a Justin Aluya free throw with seven seconds left to ice the game. Swift's 24 points led five Scots in double figures. Sean Espinosa led the Foresters with 20.
The top two seeds – Monmouth and Ripon – will meet for the tournament title at 3 p.m. Saturday in Monmouth's Glennie Gym. It's the first meeting of the teams for a title since the Scots' 99-62 win in 1990.
Take a break from the 24-hours of Super Bowl pregame coverage on three different networks and tune into Hoopsville on Sunday. Dave McHugh talked to Baruch, Louisiana College, and Monmouth men's teams along with Castleton State women's squad plus got an in-depth look at what is going on in the Northeast Region. Watch the show On Demand!