ORANGE CITY, Iowa | Longtime rivals Northwestern and Dordt have played some memorable games over the years, but Wednesday's contest at the Bultman Center has to rank among the best.
Northwestern somehow found a way to pull out a 116-111 overtime triumph over the Defenders, rallying from nine points down in the final two minutes of regulation.
Senior Nathan Wedel was an unstoppable force, pouring in a career-high 46 points for the Red Raiders, who were ranked No. 1 in NAIA Division II before suffering back-to-back losses last week.
There were certainly some dramatic plays, but none bigger than Colton Kooima's three free throws with 7.4 seconds remaining in regulation, tying the game at 102-102. Officials ruled that Kooima was fouled while shooting a 3-pointer and the steely senior calmly sank all three charity tosses.
Dordt's Alec Henrickson had the last shot of regulation, a contested layup that bounced off the rim.
The teams went back and forth in overtime until Kooima drained a 3-pointer with 33.5 seconds left, giving Northwestern a 113-109 lead. Henrickson answered with a bucket but after two free throws by Northwestern's Riley Francis, the Defenders turned it over and Wedel iced it by making the first of two free throws.
“It was just an emotional roller-coaster, to be honest,” said Wedel, who was 19 of 25 from the field, most of them on hard drives to the basket. “In the first half my teammates saw the hot hand and kept getting me the ball and in the second half a lot of guys stepped up and helped me out. It was a great team win, we got the stops down the stretch we needed to and were able to get some very clutch buckets. That's just a little Raider magic right there.”
Derek Buysse charted a double-double in a reserve role for Northwestern, 10-2 overall and 3-2 in the Great Plains Athletic Conference, with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Kooima finished with 15 points, Francis 13 and Chris Borchers 11.
Dordt's Henrickson had 25 points and freshman Jesse Jansma 21, the two combining to make 8 of 14 3-pointers. The Defenders shot 53 percent from the field, but were unable to slow a sizzling Northwestern offense that made 63 percent of its shots.
“They dictated all game long and we had very little room for error down the stretch and our guys really gutted it out,” Northwestern Coach Kris Korver said. “We gave up 111 points but we found a way to get a couple stops when we needed to and really executed and put the ball in the basket down the stretch.
“What can you say about Nathan Wedel? Then Kooima's three free throws and big three. I've had some great assistants through the years who would often say to me you need your seniors to play like seniors in those big games and moments, and those guys did that tonight.”
Wedel had 24 points by halftime, but Dordt led most of the first half, breaking with a 54-46 advantage. Dordt answered every Red Raider challenge in the second half, but Northwestern finally took the lead, 78-77, on back-to-back 3-pointers by Francis and Buysse with 8:48 left in regulation.
The Defenders countered with a conventional three-point play by Jansma and hoop by Chandler Brunsting to go back in front by four. They led 97-88 with 1:59 remaining and still seemed destined to win when Andrew O'Donell made the second of two free throws with 12.5 seconds left, making the score 102-99.
Inexplicably, Dordt fouled Kooima, resulting in the tying free throws.
“I thought we came out and competed, our guys invested in this game, we came out and played an outstanding team on their home floor and gave a great effort,” Dordt Coach Ross Douma said. “I think we gave ourselves a chance, we just had too many mistakes in the final seconds of the game when we had a turnover, missed free throw and foul that probably should have happened a little bit earlier.
“We wanted to foul before they got the shot off. We didn't want to foul in the back court, we wanted to foul in the front court and were a fraction too late on that. It is what it is.”
Only one of Wedel's baskets was a 3-pointer. Dordt simply couldn't keep the 6-foot-4 guard from driving to the hoop. He eclipsed his former career high of 34 points.
Marcus Winterfeld added 16 points for Dordty (7-7, 2-2), while Chad Barkema and Chandler Brunsting chipped in 11 points apiece.