The Oskaloosa Herald
William Penn men’s basketball team went to uncharted areas this past season.
The Statesmen set a school record for wins in a season with 34, got to the No. 1 ranking in NAIA Division II and reached the championship game for the first time in school history.
William Penn’s previous record for victories were 28 set in the 2007-08 season.
While the season ended in a 73-59 loss to Cardinal Stritch in the NAIA title game, it was till quite a campaign for the Statesmen.
They began the season with a 14-game winning streak before dropping an 82-71 to Bellevue on Dec. 7.
The Statesmen then went on a 20-game winning streak coming into Tuesday night’s championship game and finished the year at 34-2. They went undefeated in 14 games in capturing the regular-season and tournament title in the Midwest Classic Collegiate Conference.
The team made its fourth trip to the national tournament in the past seven years and is 4-4 in those games.
The national tournament began with a wild 71-65 win over McPherson in the opening round.
William Penn shot a chilly 36.9 percent from the field in the contest and fell behind by seven points early in the second half.
It took the lead for good midway in the second half at 45-44 and held on for the win.
Brandon Beasley led the Statesmen with 23 points and 14 rebounds as Keith Steffeck had 19 points.
That win sent the Statesmen to the next round against Bethel and they had no trouble in reaching the Elite Eight with a 101-84 thrashing.
William Penn never trailed in the game and led by as much as 20 points in the opening half of play.
The Pilots made things interesting midway in the second half, trailing 65-64, as William Penn coach John Henry called a timeout.
Following the short break, the Statesmen tallied the next 17 points over the next four-plus minutes to blow the game open.
Steffeck paced William Penn with 26 points and grabbed 13 rebounds while James Devlin, who later would etch his name in William Penn lore, contributed 23 points. Beasley was saddled with fouls for much of the game, was held to just eight points before fouling out. Blake Walker also fouled out and had eight points as well.
Next came the quarterfinal matchup with Midland and Devlin’s buzzer-beater rivaled Christian Laettner’s miracle shot against Kentucky for sheer jubilation.
After getting the ball with seven seconds left and trailing 66-65, Beasley put up wide-open shot from the right baseline that went over the rim. Devlin was johnny-on-the-spot as he grabbed the ball, stepped back to just inside the arc and nailed the game-winning shot for a unbelievable 67-66 triumph and a spot in the semifinal.
Devlin only had six points in the game, but none were bigger than his buzzer-beater.
The Statesmen had three players in double figures, led by Steffeck’s 19 points. Taylor Stoutner added 18 points and Beasley scored 12 points. But it was on the backboards that Beasley shine the brightest.
Beasley grabbed 23 rebounds, the second-most in school history, behind only Ted Burson’s 31 against Parsons during the 1962-63 campaign.
William Penn took on Grace in the semifinal and outscored the Lances 43-22 in the second half en route to the 79-58 win and a spot in the national championship game.
Grace took a 31-21 lead at the 5:52 mark of the first half. The Statesmen, however, scored the next 12 points for a 34-31 advantage with 3:17 remaining.
William Penn had the first six points of the second half, but took over the game midway in the half.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Kevin Fay took a slim 54-51 lead to 60-51 cushion and the Statesmen never were threatened again.
Fay’s long-range buckets highlighted a 12-0 spurt by the Statesmen and the Lancers could get no closer than 10 the rest of the way.
Steffeck was the leading score for the statesmen with 18 and 10 rebounds while Devlin tallied 17 points and Beasley collected 15 points and 12 rebounds. Fay had 11 points as Stoutner had eight points and grabbed 11 rebounds.
The most successful men’s basketball season in school history was coming to an end one way or another. But unfortunately it did not culminate in a victory as the Statesmen fell 73-59 to second-ranked Cardinal Stritch in the championship game.
On a night when everything had to go right for the Statesmen to beat their best opponent of the year, little did. A scoring drought of 6:23 to open the second half was one of the biggest, if not the biggest, undoing for the Statesmen who were making their first appearance in a championship game in any men’s sport.
William Penn missed its first nine shots of the second half and never got to within four in the final 9:23.
Beasley had 23 points and eight rebounds in his final appearance as a Statesmen. He was named to the all-tournament team as did Steffeck, who scored 12 points and six rebounds.
The loss ends the collegiate careers of Beasley, Steffeck, Stoutner, Devlin, Arman Rasul and Davis Spielbauer.