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Augustana Observer

Vikings finish their season in a tough Elite 8 loss against Wisconsin-Oshkosh

Augustana Chris Orange (’19) plays defense against UW-Oshkosh player at the NCAA Division III Elite Eight game on Saturday. Photo by Maria Do.

The Augustana Vikings (25-6) finished their history-making 2017-18 postseason after losing to Wisconsin-Oshkosh in the Elite 8 of the NCAA tournament on Saturday, March 10. The game went into overtime, but the Titans won 95-88.
This was Augustana’s fourth straight trip to the Elite 8, a milestone very few colleges have accomplished in Division III basketball. Head coach Grey Giovanine said that even though the team came up short, they still had an incredible season overcoming many battles.
“What these guys have done is nothing short of remarkable and I couldn’t be prouder of them,” Giovanine said.
Coming into this round four game, the Vikings expected it to be close based on their first matchup earlier this season in which the Vikings lost in double overtime. In this rematch, there were 18 total ties and 14 lead changes in the game.
Even though the Vikings gained seven leads in the game, it took them almost 15 minutes into the game to get their first lead. After starting the game down 0-8, the Vikings relied on their bench to score their first three baskets (Joe Kellen, AJ Dollmeyer and Lucas Simon).
The score stayed close the rest of the half. With six seconds left, Oshkosh senior, Ben Boots (36 points), shot a three-pointer to make the Titans up by three. Augustana junior captain Nolan Ebel got ahold of the ball and made a buzzer beater shot to tie the game heading into the half. Ebel scored a career high of 38 points in the game.
The Vikings started the second half strong going on a 9-1 run in the first three minutes. The Titans then tied the game with nine minutes left. There were seven more lead changes and four ties in the remainder of the half.
With less than 30 seconds left in the second half, the Vikings trailed by two points. Augustana junior captain Chrishawn Orange (13 points) hustled to score a basket with four seconds remaining which then brought the game into overtime.
For the first three minutes in overtime, every time Augustana scored, Oshkosh answered. The score was tied at 85-85 with 2:11 minutes remaining.
However, the Vikings never gained the lead again. With four more Augustana fouls, Oshkosh was able to secure their lead and move onto the Final Four.
Orange and Ebel said that this loss is difficult for the Vikings after getting so close once again to a national title (last year they were runner-ups), but their experience will help them in future years.
“It definitely hurts right now and it’s kind of the same feeling we had last year,” Orange said. “It’s not something we want to continue to do, so it’s definitely going to fuel us in the offseason.”
The Vikings played in the Carver Center the past three weekends with standing room only crowds. Although they finished with a loss at home, Ebel said the atmosphere helped energize them.
“We’re going to do everything in our power and work even harder to get back [in the Carver Center] again [next] March,” Ebel said.
While the season finishes here for the Vikings, two players ended their careers at the Carver Center on Saturday. One of the seniors, captain Dylan Sortillo (4 points), became the winningest player in Augustana history this season and he also earned his career 1000 points. He knew going into this game that it would be his last at the Carver Center, but after their loss, it became the last game in his career.
“I hate to have it come to an end, but all good things come to an end and to go out with these guys, there’s not much more you could ask for,” Sortillo said.
The Vikings had a good run for the first three rounds of the NCAA tournament. The first round against the Greenville Panthers was a thrilling one for the Vikings on Friday, March 2. They trailed as much as 19 points, but the Vikings came back in the second half to win 123-111.
Coming into the first round game, the Vikings knew they needed a strong defense to hold the highest average scoring team in the NCAA. The Panthers average around 126 points per game.
Augustana kept Greenville from getting to 100 points until 2:58 to go in the game when the Vikings were ahead by 12 points. For a team that normally scores in the mid-100s, this was a major confidence booster for the Vikings to finish the game strong.
The first half was a test for Augustana as they never had the lead and the closest they got to the Panthers was by three points after the first basket. At the half, the Vikings trailed 54-67. The Panthers had 11 three-pointers and 23 field goals against the Vikings’ three three-pointers and 17 field goals.
Augustana sophomore Donovan Ferguson (13 points, 14 rebounds) got the crowd on their feet within 11 seconds of the second half with a dunk. Following this, a minute later was Augustana junior Nolan Ebel’s three-point shot that paved the way for the team to spark their scoring spree in the second half. Ebel was Augustana’s lead scorer of the game with 26 points.
By the 13:41 mark in the second half, the Vikings tied the score for the first time at 80-80. Baskets made by Augustana juniors Chrishawn Orange (18 points) and Brett Benning (18 points) helped fuel the Vikings’ dramatic comeback.
The Vikings continued to trail until they went on a 13-0 run to put them ahead 100-93. The Panthers continued to miss multiple field goal attempts. They only scored four of their 20 three-point attempts in the second half.
In the last five minutes of the game, the closest the Panthers got to the Vikings was by 10 points. The Panthers only scored 44 points in the second half compared to the 69 points the Vikings scored.
Augustana’s bench played a crucial role in the Vikings’ victory. Junior Joe Kellen scored his season high 20 points. Freshman Jack Jelen hadn’t played in almost a month, but in his 11 minutes, he scored a significant three-pointer and had two assists.
The Vikings won their second round game 95-83 against Hope College on Saturday, March 3.
Sortillo got the crowd involved from the very beginning after making the first basket of the game. He scored his career high of 30 points, which included seven three-pointers, five were in the first half.
Despite Sortillo’s 19 first-half points, the Flying Dutchmen kept the score relatively close towards the half. The Vikings led 46-40 at the half.
After trailing at the end of the first half, Hope tied the game five times and caused two lead changes within the first seven minutes of the second.
The Vikings needed a major play to grab an advantage. This happened with 12:48 left when Sortillo was fouled and made three free throw shots. Combined Orange’s free throw shot made before this, the Vikings went on a much needed 11-0 run in less than four minutes. After this run, the Flying Dutchmen were only able to get within seven points of the Vikings for the remainder of the game.
Another moment like this was when Ferguson dunked with 3:28 minutes left to give the Vikings a 14 point lead, their largest lead of the night. The Vikings kept a comfortable lead for the remainder of the game.
Three other Augustana players finished in double-digit scoring: Orange (21 points), juniors Nolan Ebel (16 points) and Brett Benning (10 points).
The Vikings powered through a close Sweet 16 battle against 20th ranked John Carroll Blue Streaks on Friday, March 9 winning 86-78.
The Vikings started out the game with confidence allowing them to keep the lead for 12 minutes. They even led by 12 points after a sophomore Donovan Ferguson dunk.
John Carroll then went on a 0-8 run starting at 7:18 minutes in the first half to catch up to Augustana. This then allowed the Blue Streaks to take the lead with five minutes left, leading 33-30. They scored seven points in a row getting their largest lead of the night. Five of those points came from their lead scorer, senior John Cirillo (16 points).
Augustana attempted to take the lead before halftime ending with a 6-0 run, but fell one point short making the score 38-39 at the half.
In the first minute of the second half, Ebel (24 points) brought the Vikings the lead by shooting two free throws. The next 11 minutes included nine lead changes and seven ties.
With 5:33 minutes left in the game, the Blue Streaks only trailed by two points. Consecutive three-point shots made by Ebel and junior Brett Benning (16 points) brought the Vikings back to a six-point lead. The Vikings never trailed again and secured their spot in the Elite 8.
The Vikings finished their season 25-6 overall and 12-4 in Conference. They secured the CCIW title and were CCIW tournament champions.
Photo: Augustana Chris Orange (’19) plays defense against UW-Oshkosh player at the NCAA Division III Elite Eight game on Saturday. Photo by Maria Do.

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Vikings finish their season in a tough Elite 8 loss against Wisconsin-Oshkosh