None bigger than the last one.
The Wayne State forward drilled a three-pointer as time expired to stun Northern State 70-67 on Friday in a crazy Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference men’s basketball game.
“It is one of the best environments I have played in all year,” Rolfzen said. “It was a lot of fun. Especially with my teammates out there rushing the floor (after the buzzer beater). It was a lot of fun.”
The buzzer beater capped off a wild finish. The Wolves led by as much as 58-40 with 12 minutes to play, but the Wildcats would not go away and kept chipping away at the lead. Northern State could not handle Wayne’s full court press and slowly saw its lead dwindle away. NSU scored only seven points in the final 10 minutes.
“They started getting some momentum,” Northern State coach Paul Sather said about the Wildcats. “They started making some shots. We just couldn’t get that poise back to handle their pressure.”
At the under 10-minute media timeout, Wayne coach Paul Combs told his team it could not continue trading baskets with the Wolves and needed to get stops on defense. NSU made only two field goals in the final 10 minutes.
“We played with unbelievable amounts of energy and passion down the stretch,” Combs said. “Our press and our zone sped the game up. We were playing a possession game. We couldn’t let them bleed the clock out. We had to try to up the tempo and maximize our possessions.”
It was Amry Shelby that maximized most of the possessions for the Wildcats. The senior point guard spearheaded the late game surge. He broke down the Wolves’ defense down the stretch and either scored or dished off to his teammates. Shelby finished with a team-high 16 points and added four assists.
“When Amry makes shots it opens up the floor for everybody,” Rolfzen said. “You just have to sit there and be ready to go when it is your turn to be called.”
Rolfzen was scoreless in the first half. He made three straight treys to cut a 61-52 deficit to 63-61 with three minutes left. He finished with 12 points, all on threes.
“He made the shots,” Combs said, “but you have to credit the other guys on the team for getting him the shots and setting the screens and making plays.”
Wayne State took its first since early in the first half when Shelby scored on a contested layup with 1:40 left. NSU grabbed the lead back on a Collin Pryor field goal on the Wolves’ next possession. Shelby then tied it up, 67-67, with 1:07 to play.
NSU’s Mack Arvidson was called for an offensive foul on the Wolves’ next possession. Wayne State then called a timeout with 18 seconds left to draw up a play. The Wolves had a foul to give and stopped the clock with six seconds left. Shelby then drove the lane, passed the ball to a cutting LaTroy Wright and Wright spotted Rolfzen in the left corner. Rolfzen then swished the buzzer beater.
“What an unbelievable college basketball game,” Combs said. “Northern was good for the first 35 minutes and we just made plays. It was a shame somebody had to lose that game.”
Northern jumped out to a 44-30 lead at halftime after shooting an unbelievable 70.4 percent in the first half. The Wolves appeared to have the game in hand when they ballooned their lead to almost 20 points in the second half. However, the Wildcats then staged their second half come back.
“Wayne State, credit them,” Sather said. “They did a heck of a job executing in that second half.”
Pryor powered the Wolves with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Dustin Tetzlaff added 13 points, while Firmin and Jared Hannigan added 10 points apiece. Northern State (17-7, 12-5 NSIC) will host Augustana at 7 p.m. tonight at Wachs Arena in Aberdeen. Augustana (16-5, 12-5 NSIC) of the South Division in the NSIC lost 79-62 to Moorhead Friday.
“Augie is very good,” Sather said. “We have to be able to respond (tonight) to a big task.”
With the loss, the Wolves slipped into second place of the North Division. St. Cloud (17-4, 13-4) defeated visiting Winona 79-78 to take over first place alone in the North.
WAYNE STATE COLLEGE (14-9, 8-9 NSIC): Derrell Williams 4-10 4-5 12, Jordan Holdsworth 1-3 0-0 3, Amry Shelby 7-13 0-0 16, Adol Aluong 3-6 2-2 9, LaTroy Wright 4-7 0-0 9, Ben Galemmo 1-2 0-0 2, Ty Bauschek 2-5 0-0 5, Ryan Rolfzen 4-4 0-0 12, Patrick Kurth 1-1 0-0 2, Curtis Neely 0-0 0-0 0, Ayron Worthington 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 27-52 6-7 70.
NORTHERN STATE (17-7, 12-5): Dustin Tetzlaff 6-11 1-2 13, Mitch White 0-1 1-2 1, Geoffrey Firmin 4-8 1-3 10, Collin Pryor 6-10 5-7 17, Skye Warwick 1-3 0-0 3, Jared Hannigan 4-4 0-1 10, Trent Zomer 1-3 2-2 4, Mack Arvidson 4-6 0-1 9. Totals 26-46 10-18 67.
Halftime score — NSU 44-30. 3-point field goals — NSU 5-10 (White 0-1, Warwick 1-3, Hannigan 2-2, Arvidson 1-3, Firmin 1-1); WSC 10-17 (Holdsworth 1-3, Shelby 2-5, Aluong 1-2, Wright 1-2, Bauschek 1-1, Rolfzen 4-4). Total fouls — WSC 17; NSU 12. Fouled out — No one. Turnovers — WSC 10; NSU 19. Rebounds — WSC 20 (Williams 6); NSU 31 (Pryor 11). Assists — WSC 13 (Shelby 4, Wright 4); NSU 14 (White 4, Pryor 4). Blocked Shots — WSC 1 (Holdsworth 1); NSU 3 (Tetzlaff 2). Steals — WSC 8 (Williams 4); NSU 3 (Hannigan 1, Firmin 1, Pryor 1). Officials — Mark Ukestad, Mark Riggs, Kim Anderson. A — 3,684.