MARANDET, COUGARS NATIONAL CHAMPIONS
StaceyPageOnline / Sports on Wednesday, March 13, 2019
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – For the second time in as many years, the Crossroads League, and more specifically, a superstar from Warsaw, raised the trophy as men’s basketball national champion.
Spring Arbor knocked off Oregon Tech, 82-76, Tuesday night to stand as champions in the NAIA Division II Men’s Basketball National Championship game. A huge component to the Cougars run to its first-ever NAIA title was guard Paul Marandet, who scored 16 points and had five assists. The Warsaw native joined former Tiger teammate and Indiana Wesleyan superstar Kyle Mangas as national champion, IWU winning the title last season to give the conference back-to-back titles.
The Cougars (30-7) jumped out in front by as much as 15 points in the second half, fueled by made threes from Luke Barber and Brandon Durnell. The two teams would the trade buckets for much of the remainder of the second half, Tech narrowing the lead to four on a pair of occasions, as close as 76-72 with just over two minutes to go in the game.
Jeff Beckman would make four free throws late, and after Mitchell Fink scored with 17 seconds to go to slice the lead to four at 80-76, Durnell broke free on a feed from Barber and converted the shot, sealing the title for the Cougars.
Durnell finished off an incredible tournament run with 32 points and eight rebounds, Barber had nine points, and Beckman added eight points, 10 rebounds, three assists and two blocks.
Fink was the high man for the Hustlin’ Owls (28-8) with 25 points, seven assists and five boards.
For the tournament, Marandet tallied 81 points, 36 assists, 18 rebounds and committed just 16 turnovers in five games. For his efforts, he was named the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament.