STORY BY TYLER SCHUSTER
PHOTOS BY MCKENZIE WEDEL
VIDEO BY ANNA LICHTI AND KELLY KRUSE
With 5:17 remaining in the second half, Hastings was staring down the barrel of eight-point Midland lead with their season hanging in the balance. That’s when Connor Musiel took over. Musiel scored nine points, on two three-pointers and an old-fashioned three-point play, in the last 3:09 to spark the Broncos to an 83-81 come from behind victory.
“Musiel is not scared of the moment. He wants to take big shots and his preparation is good,” Hastings College Head Coach Bill Gavers said. “He was huge. He shot the ball with extreme confidence, he put the ball on the floor with confidence, and he just really made big plays for us late in the game and throughout the game.”
Entering Wednesday’s game, Midland (14-12) (11-7) owned a 2-9 record on the road, while Hastings College (16-11) (9-9) sported an 8-3 record at home in Lynn Farrell Arena.
Hastings came out clicking offensively, thanks to back-to-back baskets from senior David Plain to give the Broncos an early five-point lead. Plain shouldered much of the offensively load early, with 13 first half points.
Musiel, who finished with 19 points, sunk a three-pointer and on the following possession, Plain again finished at the rim to put the Broncos up eight at the 15:27 mark. Following a Bronco timeout, the Warriors got back-to-back baskets to cut the lead to four.
After trading misses, senior Kendall Ferguson knocked down a three-pointer, before picking up his 3rd foul at the 9:00 mark in the first half. Senior Zach Clemens finished a dunk, followed by a Plain jumper that put the Broncos up 25-18.
Drew Callaghan knocked down an elbow jumper to put the Broncos up eight, but the following possession, junior Rich Williams picked up his third foul at the 4:48 mark.
Freshman James Kaiser, who finished with seven first half points, knocked down a three-pointer to cut the deficit to two with 3:23 left in the half. Junior Nolan Cass, who led the Warriors with nine first half points on three of five shooting from three-point range, knocked down a deep three-pointer to cut the lead to one.
Hastings led 33-32 at halftime.
It was Clemens who provided a spark for the Broncos after halftime, scoring five quick points. Both teams traded baskets, before Plain knocked down a three-pointer and finished a layup off a Musiel steal that put Hastings up 43-41 with 16:41 remaining.
Ky Kramer, who was tied for a team-high 16 points, knocked down a corner three with 14:46 remaining to tie the game at 48. Jake Hansen and Rich Williams knocked down back-to-back three-pointers to put extend the lead to four with 12:20 remaining.
Midland’s Alex Starkel, who scored 15 second half points after a one-point first half, connected on a hook shot that cut the Hastings lead to two. He then got back-to-back buckets to put the Warriors up two with 9:04 remaining.
Two possessions later, Starkel knocked down a turnaround jumper and the free throw to put the Warriors up four. Midland got five more points on the following two possessions to go up by eight with just over five minutes to play.
After Musiel’s barrage of points, Plain made a free throw to put the Broncos up three with 38.2 seconds remaining. Midland’s Trevor Bryant made two free throws to cut the Bronco lead to one with 26.5 remaining.
Senior Carson Blum went 3 for 4 from the free throw line in the last thirty seconds to put the Broncos up two with 9.2 seconds left. Plain checked Nolan Cass at the three-point line to force a tightly contested last shot attempt. The shot bounced off the rim and Hastings hung on to win 83-81.
This was a game that Gavers believes is a big step for his team.
“We’ve had a lot of games like that, where there have been nights where we didn’t respond. We responded tonight,” he said. “I thought tonight was a huge step for us tonight.”
The Broncos will look to carry out their momentum from tonight’s win against Dakota Wesleyan on Saturday and into the GPAC conference tournament the following week.
“We hope that momentum will carry over into the conference tournament,” Gavers said. “It’s certainly better than going into it on a slide.”