By Chad Courrier
Free Press Staff Writer
A few years ago, the Minnesota State men’s basketball team had a senior point guard named Paris Kyles.
He was a good defender, distributor and scorer, but he was at his best at the end of games. In clutch situations, Minnesota State coach Matt Margenthaler gave the ball to Kyles, and something good usually happened.
Flash forward to Saturday night in the championship game of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference tournament. There was senior Jarvis Williams, doing his best imitation of Kyles.
“He was this weekend,” coach Matt Margenthaler said. “He made every big play we needed, on both ends of the court. His confidence is just continuing to rise, which is what we need as we keep going forward.”
Williams scored 20 points, including 10 in the final six minutes, as the Mavericks pulled away from Bemidji State for a 73-68 victory, adding the conference tournament title to a regular-season championship.
“We set goals, and we achieved another one tonight,” Williams said. “We wanted to be the first team to win (a Northern Sun playoff championship), and we did it.”
Williams was the MVP of the tournament, and he came up particularly big when his team needed it most.
The Mavericks trailed 62-59 with six minutes to play. Williams then hit two free throws and a runner in the lane to put Minnesota State on top for good. After Assem Marei scored in the post, Williams hit another drive to make it 67-62 with one minute to go.
“We have a set play for him to try to get him more space on the floor,” Margenthaler said. “He’s so dang good at getting to the rim. And the big thing is he trusts his jump shot. You have to pick your poison as far as how you guard him, and teams are letting him get to the rim. He made some phenomenal shots tonight.”
After a 3-pointer by the Beavers, Jaymeson Moten made two free throws and Williams made four to secure the victory. In the semifinals and finals, Williams has totaled 40 points, making 16 of 24 shots and 8 of 8 free throws.
“If you want to be the best team, you have to win games like this,” Williams said. “We showed that we are the best team in this conference.”
Marei ended up with 19 points, and Connor O’Brien had 11. The Mavericks were plus-7 in rebounding, with O’Brien, Marei, Williams and Gage Wooten each getting seven.
Bemidji State, which led for most of the game, ended up with 11 3-pointers, led by Mason Walters’ four, finishing with 19 points. Lance Rongstad scored 20 points, but the Beavers, who had just four turnovers in the first 36 minutes of the game, made five miscues in the final four minutes.
The Mavericks (26-4) will surely be the No. 1 seed and host the Central Region tournament next weekend. The NCAA selection show is scheduled for 9:30 p.m. today, which will show the pairings.
“It was good for us to have a good, tight game tonight,” Margenthaler said. “The last couple of games had kind of gotten out of hand late, but we really had to grind one out tonight. That’s what we needed heading into the NCAA tournament.”
BEMIDJI STATE 68
Rongstad 7-15 5-5 20, Noreen 3-12 0-4 7, Walters 6-15 3-4 19, Crockrell 5-11 1-2 14, Edwards 0-1 0-0 0, Rosenbloom 1-3 0-0 2, Schalow 2-2 0-0 6. Totals: 24-59 9-15 68.
MINNESOTA STATE 73
O’Brien 4-7 1-2 11, Marei 8-15 3-4 19, Williams 7-14 6-6 20, Monaghan 2-10 2-2 7, Wooten 3-7 1-2 7, Brown 0-0 0-0 0, Moten 1-1 2-2 5, Whitehead 0-2 0-0 0, Romashko 2-3 0-0 4. Totals: 27-59 15-18 73.
Halftime: Bemidji State 34, Minnesota State 33. 3-point shooting: Bemidji State 11-27 (Rongstad 1-6, Noreen 1-6, Walters 4-9, Crockrell 3-5, Schalow 2-2), Minnesota State 4-12 (O’Brien 2-3, Monaghan 1-5, Wooten 0-2, Moten 1-1, Romashko 0-1). Rebounds: Bemidji State 31 (Walters 7), Minnesota State 38 (O’Brien, Marei, Williams, Wooten 7). Assists: Bemidji State 11 (Crockrell 5), Minnesota State 8 (Williams 3). Steals: Bemidji State 3 (Rongstad 2), Minnesota State 5 (Monaghan 2). Turnovers: Bemidji State 9, Minnesota State 8. Total fouls: Bemidji State 17, Minnesota State 15. Fouled out: none.