Feb. 26, 2014
Bearcats secure share of MIAA titleBy David Boyce | Box Score | Photo Album
MARYVILLE, Mo. - DeShaun Cooper. Tyler Funk. Kyle Schlake. Dillon Starzl. Bryston Williams.
They left in style. In their final game ever at Bearcat Arena, they helped Northwest Missouri State men’s basketball team to an impressive 89-62 victory over Southwest Baptist.
The five seniors deserve individual recognition because of the unselfish way they gave to the program throughout their years as Bearcats.
“They changed the whole culture of the program, hopefully for the future,” Northwest coach Ben McCollum said. “Obviously, I have learned a lot from these kids and their winning attitude. I continue to learn from them.”
Cooper, Funk, Schlake, Starzl and Williams represented Northwest with class.
“Coach Mac recruits those kinds of kids, good kids but good basketball players also,” Funk said. “He recruits players with character and that goes a long ways with teamwork and chemistry on the floor.
“We want to play the right way and get after you. But we are going to play the right way within in the rules. Hopefully, we are going to come out on top.”
They came to Northwest when the Bearcats were one of the doormats in the MIAA. They worked and sacrificed to make the Bearcats the best in conference.
Northwest improved to 21-6 overall and 16-2 in the MIAA. The Bearcats have a one game lead over Central Missouri. The two teams will face each other Saturday in Warrensburg. No matter what happens Saturday, the Bearcats have at least a share of the conference title
“I just remember how far we have come since our freshman year and not making the tourney and now we have two conference championships,” Funk said.
After the game, the Bearcats cut down the nets and received a trophy to celebrate their conference title. They then had plenty of photos taken of them by parents, grandparents and friends.
“You really can’t put it into words,” Starzl said. “It has been great here at Northwest. I couldn’t ask for a better place to be at. The fans are awesome. I love support for this last game.
“It has been a fun ride, but we want to keep going. We are happy today, but tomorrow we are refocusing for our new goals for the rest of the season.”
If Northwest plays anything like it did in the opening four minutes of the second half, the Mules will be in trouble.
Northwest started the second half with a seven-point lead and it quickly jumped to double digits on a three-pointer by freshman Zach Schneider, who already plays the game in a mature manner like the seniors.
After Baptist made a three-pointer, Schneider followed with a basket, making it 45-36 in favor of Northwest.
Now the fun started and a near packed arena enjoyed every minute of it. Starzl received a pass from sophomore Conner Crooker that led to a dunk.
In the next possession, Starzl received a pass from Schneider that led to another layup, giving Northwest a 49-36 lead.
Williams then took over with two straight buckets and two free throws that increased the Bearcats lead to 55-36. The 14-0 run concluded on a sweet fade-away in the paint by Starzl.
The 21-point lead essentially put the game away. The last 14 minutes gave fans an opportunity to recognize they were watching a special group of players.
With such a big lead, each senior was able to leave the game to applause from the appreciative fans.
“That was special,” Starzl said.
The student section then stood up and chanted “Thank you seniors. Thank you seniors.”
“That gave me goose bumps,” Starzl said.
After the game, the players rushed over to the student section and thanked their peers. That display of gratitude is what college athletics should always strive to be.
Cooper finished with 24 points and Starzl added 21.
The first half was every bit as impressive for the Bearcats.
When Northwest turns it up a notch, the ride is exhilarating for Bearcat fans and demoralizing for opponents.
Baptist experienced this in the first half. At one point Baptist was up 27-19 and feeling pretty good about itself.
“I just think being the last game, we had some nerves early,” Starzl said. “We played a lot better towards the end of the first half.”
Baptist went into halftime down 40-33. They got a taste of the inside play of Starzl and the quickness of Cooper.
The last 3 minutes of the first half were spectacular for the Bearcats. It started with a routine two free throws by Grant Cozad that gave Northwest a 33-31 lead with 2:50 left in the first half.
Cooper followed with a three-pointer and then he made the move of the half. He drove to the basket, got into the paint and tossed the ball high off the glass, giving Northwest a 38-31.
What a special night of basketball.
For more information, please contact:
Media Relations Department, Northwest Athletics
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