The Trinity Bible College Lions went into the NIAC Conference tournament riding a five game winning streak and looked to defend their NIAC Conference championship from a year ago. The Lions wrapped up the NIAC Conference regular season title last weekend after beating Crossroads College on back to back days. The Lions as the #1 seed faced #4 seed AFLBS to open the tournament on Friday afternoon.
The Lions came out flat early against AFLBS as both teams struggled to find a rhythm. The Lions found themselves down early 7 to 8 after five minutes of play and then down 11 to 17 after nine minutes of action. They found themselves down by 10 points before they begun their rally. The Lions captured the lead 25 to 23 with 4 minutes to play in the first half. They then used a 10 to 3 run to close the half and took a 35 to 26 lead into the break. The Lions were being led at the break by Mikey Rosario who had 14 points on 7 for 12 shooting. The start of the second half saw AFLBS trim the Lions lead down to six points with 15 minutes to play only to see the Lions go on a run to put it back to double figures. The Lions used a 12 to 4 run over the next five minutes to take a 54 to 40 lead with 10 minutes left in the game. Then it was a 10 to 6 run over a four minute span and the Lions then finished even with AFLBS over the last 6 minutes of the game 13 to 13 to go on to win 77 to 59 and advance to the championship game against host school Turtle Mountain Community College. In the win the Lions were led by Mikey Rosario who led all scorers with 29 points on 13 for 21 shooting. AJ Anthony added 13 points and sophomore Nick Lentz pitched in a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
The championship game was a rematch from a year ago but the Lions hoped the outcome would be the same. However the Lions again could not get things going early as both teams would be tied 7 to 7 after the first three minutes and Turtle Mountain took the lead after that using a 14 to 4 run. The Lions found themselves down 10 points with 12 minutes to play but could not get close as they gave up 51 first half points to Turtle Mountain and the Lions offense only managed to score 28. The Lions shot only 35 percent from the field and 30 percent from three, while Turtle Mountain hot 54 percent from the field. In the second half Turtle Mountain pushed their lead to 20 points with 15 minutes to play. The Lions fought to within 12 points 71 to 83 with 5 minutes left but things just did not go the Lions way as Turtle Mountain finished the final five minutes on a 16 to 5 to beat the Lions 99 to 76. In the loss the Lions were led by AJ Anthony’s 25 points and 6 rebounds and Mikey Rosario’s 20 points. The Lions were held to just 44 percent shooting for the game.
The Lions took home second place in the NIAC for the third time in four years, as they are 1-3 in NIAC championship games since 2010. After the game the Lions had three players named NIAC Honorable Mention, David Rohrbach, Michael Rohrbach and Cameron Martell. They also had 3 players named NIAC All-Conference Nick Lentz and AJ Anthony, and for the second year in a row senior Mikey Rosario was named NIAC Conference Player of the Year.
The Lions now prepare for the North Central Regional Tournament that takes place February 22nd and 23rd at North Central University. They head into the tournament as the #2 seed in which they face #3 seed Faith Baptist Bible College in the first round at 4pm on Friday, February 22nd. The Lions hope to repeat as region champs and head back to Springfield, MO for the NCCAA National Tournament but they have a lot to work ahead still.