SIOUX CITY – Briar Cliff’s talented backcourt is a trio worthy of some kind of nickname.
But until somebody comes up with one, let’s refer to Erich Erdman, Jay Wolfe and Jackson Lamb as the Chargers’ three-headed monster.
It’s a proven fact that when those three players are on the top of their game, BCU is a difficult squad to beat. The Chargers were ranked among the top five in NAIA Division II men’s basketball for a good portion of the season, thanks in part to the performance of their three guards.
“It’s definitely a luxury as a coach,” first-year Briar Cliff Coach Mark Svagera said. “They’re all three outstanding scorers and they’re all different in their own ways.
“Erich is obviously the most dynamic off the dribble and the best at making plays for others. Jay’s become such a great finisher around the basket, he’s got a lot more strength and size to him, and Jackson is a gunner. When he gets it going he gets it doing and that really opens up his driving game, which makes him two or three times harder to guard than normal.”
Erdman, a 5-foot-11 junior from Forest City, Iowa, is the team’s leading scorer with an 18.9 average to go along with 154 assists from his point guard spot. A two-time first-team All-Great Plains Athletic Conference selection, Erdman is the engine behind BCU’s offensive machine.
“All three of us are talented but when you go down the line after the three of us it doesn’t drop off much,” the unassuming Erdman said. “When you have guys outside the main three who play well, it makes it a lot easier on the other three guys. It’s a three-headed monster and we like that, but it’s a total team effort.”
Briar Cliff (24-7) is a No. 3 seed in its pod and plays Oregon Tech at 10:15 a.m. in the opening round of the NAIA Division II Atonal Championship Wednesday at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls.
Wolfe, a 6-4 junior from Creston, Iowa, and the GPAC co-defensive player of the year, averages 17.6 points and 6.9 rebounds while shooting 53 percent from the field. He and Erdman were each first team All-GPAC picks.
“We do a great job of moving the ball and finding each other in good spots,” Wolfe said. “When we all have it going we’re a pretty tough team to stop on the offensive end. It’s a lot of fun, those two are really great players. We’re really unselfish and love playing together.”
Lamb, a 6-4 sophomore from Greenfield, Iowa, has made 96 3-pointers and averages 15.3 points per contest.
“I’ve never been a part of something like this, it’s pretty special,” Lamb said. “When I came here as a freshman I saw how hard Erich and Jay worked to get their shots off and I just kind of jumped in on that. We’re just three guys that want to work hard and get better each day. We just love each other and play with that.”
The unique part is how well the three perform together, trying to make sure each get their share of shots.
“One of the biggest benefits of our team is unselfishness,” Svagera said. “How tight our guys are with one another.”
“There’s one word for that and it’s chemistry,” Erdman said. “As different as all of our styles are, we trust each other and we’ll let each other do their third. We have the utmost confidence in each and every one of us on the team.”
Lamb feels the bond is just as strong off the court as on.
“The more we play with each other, it gels perfectly,” Lamb said. “It’s a blast.”
Briar Cliff tripped up a bit at the end of the season, losing its final regular season game to Dordt and then dropping an 85-84 shocker to seventh-seeded Doane in a GPAC tournament quarterfinal. The Chargers wound up tied with Northwestern for second in the league, a game behind Morningside.
Oregon Tech (22-10) finshed third in the Cascade Collegiate Athletic Conference with a 14-6 mark. Guard Mitchell Fink was the league’s co-player of the year, averaging 19.6 points per game.
The Owls won national championships in 2004, 2008 and 2012. Oregon Tech beat Briar Cliff 96-85 in the second round of the 2000 tournament.