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  Friday February 27th, 2015    

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WSU Warriors off to NCAA quarterfinals
Game to be played Wednesday in Springfield, Mass.
By Brian P. Heilman
Whoever said that the term "March Madness" applies only to Division One men's basketball has obviously never seen David ‘The Legend of" Zellmann hit countless three-pointers while knocked violently to the floor by beefy Dakota farm boys.

Nor has this person ever seen Jonte Flowers delicately bounce a three-pointer off the rim, off the top of the backboard, and through the net, seen John Smith slam the last-minute dreams of his foes in the form of a mighty dunk, or seen crazed purple-painted maniacs running laps around McCown Gymnasium.

The Madness was here, Winona, before the Division One tournament ever started.

On Tuesday night, in front of a standing-and-squeezing-room-only crowd of over 4,000, the WSU men's basketball team claimed the NCAA North Central Regional Championship in a hard-fought and exhilarating victory over the Northern State Wolves of Aberdeen, South Dakota.

The Wolves, a strapping and skilled bunch of could-have-been-cloned shaven-headed scrappers, never gave up the fight, even down ten in the game's closing minutes. Yet Zellmann and crew responded with drive and determination, and ultimately sent their Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference foes packing for the fourth time this season. Now the Warriors will head to Springfield, Mass., for the national quarterfinals.

"It's tough to beat a team four times," said Zellmann, who was named Regional Tournament Most Valuable Player, "especially a team that is coached that well."

Zellmann led the Warriors' charge in the first half, scoring a mighty sum of 23 points before the break. He finished the game as the leading scorer from either team with 31 points. Flowers and Smith were solid contributors all night as well, adding 20 and 14 points respectively.

The Warriors' Travis Whipple and Joe Ingvalson contributed major minutes off the bench in the second half, providing excellent support on both sides of the floor and ensuring that WSU wouldn't suffer due to the loss of injured point guard Zach Malvik.

"Those guys put in so much hard work," said Zellmann, praising his "fearless" teammates.

Malvik, donning a cast on his injured ankle, played six fearless minutes of his own, boosting the Warriors' defense and drawing mountainous applause from the appreciative crowd.

The Wolves' Adam Grant, Matt Hammer and others kept the game tense until the final moments, nailing clutch three-pointers that kept the Warriors' total within reach. Yet the quick defense, evasive dribbling and solid free throw shooting of the Warriors proved enough to evade the charges of the burly boys from the plains.

After the game, the Warriors embraced their fans, shaking hands, slapping high-fives, and signing autographs for the hundreds packed onto the court floor. Triumphantly, Warriors coach Mike Leaf cut down the net, mouthing to the still-chanting fans, "This is for you."

The Warriors, who have never played in an Elite Eight tournament before, will meet Barton College of Wilson, North Carolina, on Wednesday, March 22 at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, Massachusetts.

While the Warriors know little about the Bulldogs, at least one member of the Bulldogs' organization has a connection to Winona. Barton's head coach, Ron Lievense, grew up in Bloomington, Minn., and received a Master's degree from Winona State.

WSU plans to send at least one fan bus to the contest. The bus trip will cost $100, leave Tuesday afternoon and return after WSU's final contest. The national championship game will take place Saturday, March 25. For information, please contact the WSU Sports Information office at (507) 457-5576. 


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