Friendly confines, a number one seed and leading three-fourths of the game wasn’t enough to put the Augustana Vikings men into Tuesday’s Central Regional Championship.

The Augie men lost to the fourth-seeded Northwest Missouri State University Bearcats 66 to 65 Sunday night before a full house of 3,113 at the Sanford Pentagon.

The Vikings came off the tipoff strong, shooting 52 percent from the field and taking a 32 to 24 lead into the locker room at the half and thoroughly controlled the game.

But starting the second half, it was the Bearcats’ turn to come out strong, quickly whittling the Augie lead then overtaking them 42 to 41 with 14:47 remaining in the second half. NMSU then extended their lead to eight 52 to 46 with 9:55 left.

Augustana battled back and retook the lead 57 to 56 with 7:01 remaining and then extended their lead to 59 to 56 at the 4:50 mark. The Bearcats retook the lead for good 60 to 59 with just under a minute remaining.

The Vikings had a chance to take the lead with :43 left in regulation but they missed on an uncontested three footer.

Bearcats point guard Justin Pitts, the smallest player on the floor, was perfect from the free line in the waning minutes, going six for six. He led all scorers with 22 points. Meanwhile, Augie forward Daniel Jansen, who had dominated much of the game in the paint, was shut down in the last critical moments of the game. Jansen finished with 20 points, seven rebounds, three assists, three turnovers and one block.

Augustana finishes the season at 31-3.

The Bearcats play the Minnesota State University—Moorhead Dragons 7 PM Tuesday at the Pentagon for the Central Region championship. The Dragons defeated the University of Central Missouri Mules 71 to 60 in the early semifinal game. Tuesday’s winner moves on to the Division II Elite 8 in Evansville, Indiana next weekend.

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