ANKENY, Iowa -- It all comes down to this. Both Sabercats basketball teams square off against their respective opponents today for a ticket to NCCAA DII Nationals and the title of NCCAA North Region Champion.
Women's Championship Preview - 2:00 p.m. vs #1 Emmaus Bible
Today is the rubber match. After a 1-1 series split this season, the Sabercats and the Eagles are slated for an out-and-out dogfight over the North Region banner.
Both teams have done a job in this year's tournament. As the #1/#2 seeds, both had a bye into yesterday's semifinal round, where MBU topped Trinity, 61-58, and Emmaus blew past Faith by a score of 63-46. Now, the focus switches to the rivalry at hand.
Earlier in the season, Emmaus took down Maranatha on the MBU campus, 69-56. It was a day for the Sabercats to forget, as they could only score 13 points in the entire first half. It was a story of resilience, though, as MBU rallied to beat Emmaus in Dubuque just four days later by the same exact margin.
So much for "home court advantage".
Emmaus was just one of the two teams that entered the tournament with a winning record. The Eagles' 15-13 benchmark includes a 10-3 showing against NCCAA foes. EBC averages 64.8 points per game, which ranks 6th in the NCCAA DII. On the other side, MBU averages 60.1 per game - good for 14th.
Despite their inexperience at the NCCAA level, the Eagles have shown resilience from the early stages of the season. The squad responded to a season-opening run of 7 straight defeats with a comeback run of 8 wins in their next 10 games. Will they be able to pull from this experience with everything on the line? That will soon be determined.
To shut down the Eagles' offense, the Sabercats need to shut down Madison Laib and Tiffany Williams, who average 18.4 and 15.4 points per game, respectively. The two shooters are responsible for over half of Emmaus' points this season.
The trump card that Maranatha can play is their experience in the postseason and Coach Mo's know-how. Maranatha has made the trip to NCCAA Nationals 10 times in the last 11 seasons and will look to make it 11 for 12 this afternoon.
Men's Championship Preview - 5:00 p.m. vs #4 Oak Hills Christian (10-18)
For the men's team, this game couldn't mean more.
Not only is it a chance to remove some of the sting of last year's championship-game defeat, it is also a chance to make the return trip to the national tournament - a trip that has eluded the Sabercats for the past 18 years.
To get there, the Sabercats will have to make it past Oak Hills Christian College, who are fresh off of the adrenaline rush of defeating the #1-seeded Providence University College yesterday. MBU has already topped the Wolfpack this season, 60-57, and will look to complete the season sweep this evening.
These two teams have met just one other time - it was last season at regionals, and MBU upended Oak Hills to the tune of 101-64.
Oak Hills came into regionals with a 4-4 NCCAA record, and they now stand at 6-4 after averaging 91 points through the first two games of the tournament. The Wolfpack have proven to be well-rounded, as they currently have five players averaging at least 12 PPG on the season.
The title is there for the taking. Both teams come into the game on a streak. Both teams know their game plan. Both teams have an eye on the banner.
Catch all the details of the games - including live video and stats - at mbusabercats.com/composite.