SIOUX CITY | Of all the outstanding performances – and there were many – in Briar Cliff’s 95-88 men’s basketball victory over Morningside on Wednesday night, Jordan Eisma’s may have stood out among the rest.
Eisma scored a career-high 19 points and raked down eight rebounds as the Chargers moved into first place in the Great Plains Athletic Conference with their fourth consecutive win over their arch-rivals.
The 6-4 senior from Le Mars, Iowa, made 7 of 9 shots and rattled home three of BCU’s 17 3-pointers. Eisma returned this season after missing all of last year because of a knee injury and saved his biggest game for a huge stage.
“All of our guys made huge plays down the stretch,” said Briar Cliff Coach Nic Nelson, whose team won its ninth straight game. “Eisma was great tonight. Blake Wiltgen sprained an ankle in practice yesterday so we weren’t even sure he could play tonight. Wiltgen was not himself tonight but Jordan Eisma was tremendous, just battling their posts and hitting three threes. He really played a good game tonight.”
Shane Graves and Bryan Forbes matched Eisma with 19 points and all five BCU starters reached double figures. Erich Erdman finished with 18 points and Jay Wolfe 10.
“When you have a group of guys who care about each other it stops being basketball is a job and it turns into, man, this is really fun,” point guard Graves said. “Right now we’re having a lot of fun out there and fortunately we’re coming out with wins in close games.
“Every time you come here you know you’re going to get big crowds and loud fans. I don’t think we’ve ever come here and said we’ve played our best game ever. It’s more about having grit.”
Never was that more apparent than late in the game after Morningside took its first lead of the second half on a long 3-pointer by Pierce Almond.
Erdman answered with a three of his own and after a bucket by Tyler Borchers – who led all scorers with 22 points – Erdman canned another, putting the Chargers on top, 88-85.
After a missed 3-pointer by the Mustangs, Forbes slashed down the lane for a layup and followed another long bomb by Almond with another drive to the hoop. This time he was fouled and converted a conventional 3-point play, making it 93-88 with 41.6 seconds remaining.
The Mustangs missed a pair of 3-point tries and Eisma made two of four free throws to clinch the win. Eisma, by the way, had made 7 of 19 3-pointers coming into the game.
Coupled with a Northwestern loss to Dakota Wesleyan, the Chargers (23-6) are alone in first place in the GPAC at 13-4 and can clinch their second straight league title with a win at Hastings Saturday.
Briar Cliff led 45-44 after a tight first half and it remained that way throughout the rest of the contest. BCU was 17-for-35 from the arc and shot 54 percent overall while Morningside was 47.1 percent from the field.
Tyler Borchers also snared 13 rebounds for a double-double. Ryan Tegtmeier added 13 points, Bryce Koch 12 and Alex Borchers 11 for the Mustangs (20-8, 10-7).
“It just came down to their guys making plays at the end,” Morningside Coach Jim Sykes said. “They’ve got a lot of experience on the floor and their seniors made plays. We’ll learn from it and get better. I thought we went toe-to-toe with them, we handled every run they made on us.
“I loved the way my guys played and their fight. If we can continue to play that hard good things are going to happen.”