Basketball season ends with Sweet Sixteen loss

The men’s basketball season came to an end in the Central Region Championship after a 70-56 loss to the defending Division II national champion, Northwest Missouri State.

The Vikings ended their 2021-22 campaign as the regular season NSIC champions and with an overall record of 26-4, their best since the 2016 national championship.

“We sat down in the fall and went over their goals, and you’d be amazed at what each and every one of these players did, achieving their goals from September,” coach Tom Billeter said. “In the entire season, I didn’t have a kid miss a practice, miss a film session. I had no reports of missing classes. I didn’t have one issue with this group, all of them led by this senior leadership. I can’t ever say enough. I tell them I love them, and I really do. I would do anything for them. There is a ton of success sitting up here.” 

Senior Tyler Riemersma led the team with his 19th double-double of the year, ending with 20 points and 11 rebounds on the night. Junior Isaac Fink ended with 16 points and six rebounds. The Vikings finished the game shooting 35% from the field, 28% from beyond the three-point line and 72% from the free-throw line. 

The Bearcats’ leading scorer, senior Trevor Hudgins, ended the game with 27 points and six assists while shooting 7-11 from the three. 

“He was getting guarded by the best defensive player I’ve had, the defensive player of the year,” Billeter said. “That’s why he’s such a good player. He was hitting some deep threes. He’s a very good player, player of the year and deservedly so.”

The Bearcats shot 45% from the field and 42% from the three-point line. 

Northwest Missouri State will advance to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight in Evansville, Indiana, where the team will continue their journey for back-to-back national championships. 

Riemersma was named the 2022 NSIC South Player of the Year and has recently been named the CoSIDA Academic All-America Team Member of the Year, only the fifth Augustana athlete to be given the award. 

“The outstanding academic person, that needs to be written up too,” Billeter said. “He was the number one academic basketball player in the country. That’s him, and he deserves a lot of recognition for it.” 

During the press conference, Billeter made sure to acknowledge every one of his seniors sitting at the table with him, highlighting what they’ve done to help the program win. 

Billeter was voted as the NSIC Coach of the Year, senior Dylan LeBrun was voted as the NSIC Defensive Player of the Year and the Vikings had three named to All-NSIC teams: Riemersma and senior Adam Dykman to the First Team, Fink to the Second Team. 

The Vikings’ road to the championship started against Southwestern Oklahoma State, with an 83-64 win fueled by a Riemersma 28 point, 10 rebound double-double. Fink added 20 points and six rebounds while shooting 6-8 from beyond the arc.

In the semifinals, the Vikings faced a familiar foe, the Upper Iowa Peacocks. The two teams split their regular-season games, but the Vikings came out on top in the final meeting, winning 65-60. Riemersma added another double-double with 17 points and 13 rebounds, while Dykman scored 11 points and grabbed 12 rebounds.

“I can’t say enough about Coach B,” Dykman said. “He believed in me. Starting out in the program, I wanted to do so well. I learned every single year, and it’s so soon right now, but we’re back to that winning culture. And it means a lot to me to hear that.” 

Seniors Riemersma, Dykman, LeBrun, Jameson Bryan, Eric Tiedman, Tayton Vincent and Zach Scholten will all be graduating this year.

Key returners for the Vikings next year will be Fink, junior Bennett Otto and redshirt freshman Akoi Akoi. 

SEE MORE: Vikings’ basketball headed towards a conference title

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