March 12th, 2012
Knights Seek Second Straight Regional Title
Knights face conference rival KWC in Regional final
The No. 4 Bellarmine Knights and No. 18 Kentucky Wesleyan Panthers will meet Tuesday evening for the Division II Midwest regional championship and the right to go to the Elite 8 at Northern Kentucky University next week. Tipoff is set for 7pm at a sold-out Knights Hall.
The Knights and the Panthers will meet for the 102nd time in their rivalry, one that has been dominated by the Panthers in total wins 74-27. But in the past seven years under head coach Scott Davenport, Bellarmine has enjoyed an 11-6 advantage including a pair of regular season wins this year 80-68 in Owensboro and by an 86-71 margin at Knights Hall.
Both of those Bellarmine wins came against a depleted KWC team who played without their superb guard and second leading scorer Cardell McFarland (19.7 pts/gm). McFarland was nursing a foot injury for the last 10 games of the regular season and is still not close to being fully recovered. He shoots 59 percent from the field and 46 percent from three point range.
It was McFarland’s 47-point burst that led KWC to a win at Knights Hall in February 2011, the last loss for the Knights before their Division II championship run.
If McFarland is in good form, he will be a tough match for the Knights.
“Kentucky Wesleyan will be a tough game,” said Bellarmine sophomore guard Keisten Jones. “They’re going to come out and play hard. It’s going to come down to whichever team wants it most. We’ve had two days to prepare. We know what it feels like to be there (in a championship game) so we will use that in our motivation and preparation for Tuesday night.”
This time around, it will be the Knights who may be without one of their scoring and rebounding leaders, the 6’8” senior forward Luke Sprague (12.2 pts/4.7 rebounds).
“He’ll just be day to day,” said Davenport. “I think he’s in tremendous hands from our trainer Brad Bluestone to Dr. Badenhausen and Dr. Smith. Believe me, we have involved everybody in this community that we can to help us. Everybody (on the team) will step forward. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow (Tuesday).”
Sophomore forward Richie Phares, who sat out a significant portion of this season with a concussion, filled in for Sprague in Bellarmine’s win over Findlay on Sunday night. Phares played 20 minutes and filled the stat sheet with 13 points on 6-7 shooting, 4 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocked shots.
“It’s going to be a big-time atmosphere,” said Phares. “Last year it was rockin’ and rollin’ and I hope it’s the same this year.”
Tipoff is scheduled for 7:00pm for the sold-out game. You can listen to Nick Curran and Mark Bugg call the game on WGTK – 970 AM radio or on www.970wgtk.com. Pre-game show begins at 6:30pm.
LouisvilleCatholicSports.com will be live tweeting during the game. You can get those updates @LouCathSports on Twitter.