Mike Dentlinger is having the time of his life.
The University of Nebraska at Kearney’s win streak has grown to seven and a first-round home berth in the MIAA basketball tournament is suddenly a possibility for the Lopers, something the 6-foot-6 forward from Millard North said wasn’t even on his radar a month ago.
“We really need probably three of the last four, that would put us in a really good position,’’ he said.
The top four teams in the MIAA get a bye to Kansas City. Fifth through eighth-place squads host in the first round. UNK sits in sixth place with a 12-10 and 8-7 record and the longest win streak since the 2006-07 season.
“If we got in the top eight, that would just be huge,’’ Dentlinger said. “You win that, and you get to go to Kansas City. From there, you never know what can happen.’’
Even though he’s a senior, Dentlinger has never competed in the postseason. A poor season or injuries have kept him or the Lopers away.
This year, he’s averaging 14.5 points and 4.9 rebounds while shooting a team-best 63.6 percent.
“It’s kind of a dream come true,” he said. “It just would be awesome to turn it around and make it my final year.”
Dentlinger said the Lopers, with two sophomores and a freshman in their starting five, just needed some time to jell as a team. The addition of 6-7 forward Ethan Brozek at the break has helped.
They now have the confidence they can beat anyone.
The Lopers finish up with Emporia State, Fort Hays State, Northeastern State and Central Oklahoma. Dentlinger said all the teams are so equal, the Lopers can’t afford to slip up. He wants that home berth, which he said would be a huge advantage.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” he said. “I’ve loved these guys. They are really fun to play with. I knew we had the talent in place. It was just a matter of starting to win.”
Wild week in the GPAC
The Concordia women, despite numerous injuries in the past month, have taken over the top spot in the GPAC heading into the final week of the regular season.
The seventh-ranked Bulldogs dropped Northwestern into a tie for third place with a 89-78 victory Saturday behind 45 points from Bailey Morris.
Concordia is 24-5, 16-3 in league play. Fifth-ranked Hastings is right behind at 24-3 and 15-3. Northwestern is 22-4 and 14-4, tied with No. 6 Morningside at 23-5 and 14-4.
The race is so close it could end in a four-way tie. Some of the bigger games this week are Hastings at Midland on Wednesday, along with Hastings at Northwestern and Concordia at Morningside on Saturday.
It’s going to be a wild week for the men, too. No. 3 Dordt is in first place at 25-3 and 16-2, but it must get past Northwestern on Wednesday and No. 8 Midland on Saturday to claim the title.
Midland, tied for second at 24-4 and 14-4, first has a tough matchup with fourth-place Hastings (19-8 and 13-5) on Wednesday.
Morningside is tied for second at 20-8 and 14-4.
Academic winners, too
Nebraska Wesleyan’s Trevor Johnson, Doane’s Nick Reed and Morningside’s Danny Rudeen have been named to the first team in the college division of the Capital One/CoSIDA Academic All-America squad.
They’re not too shabby on the court, either.
Johnson, who has a 3.95 GPA in biology, leads the Prairie Wolves in scoring (17.5) and rebounding (6.3). The Lincoln Pius X graduate is fourth in NAIA Division II with a 63.6 field-goal percentage.
Rudeen, from Sioux City, has a 3.74 GPA in computer science. He’s averaging 20.4 points and 4.9 rebounds.
Reed, honored for the third time, has a 3.71 GPA in exercise science. The Syracuse senior leads the GPAC in scoring with 22.1 points per game and is just 16 points shy of 2,000 career points.
He’s ranked in the top five in the GPAC in points, field goal percentage, rebounds and steals and is in the top 10 in steals.
Pokorny still unbeaten
St. Cloud State senior Andy Pokorny has been chosen as the Northern Sun wrestler of the week. The Bennington wrestler is No. 2 at 133 pounds with a 12-0 record.
He helped the Huskies claim their third consecutive NSIC championship by posting a 19-3 technical fall victory over Upper Iowa’s Matt Paulus on Saturday. The 28-6 dual win let SCSU clinch the title with an 8-0 record. The Huskies are 19-1 overall.
» Second-ranked University of Nebraska at Kearney won its second straight MIAA title on Saturday.
Eight Lopers reached the semifinals and they easily claimed the crown with 109 points. Lindenwood was second with 84.50.
Patrick Martinez (174), Brock Smith (165) and top-ranked Romero Cotton (197) won titles. Brock Coutu (141), Connor Bolling (125), Daniel DeShazer (133), Chase White (157) and Destin McCauley (149) finished second.
» Morningside defeated Midland 27-13 to win the GPAC title with a 7-0 record.
» Thirty-five percent shooting doomed the No. 8 Wayne State women in a 61-50 loss Saturday to Minnesota State. The Wildcats fell to 24-3 and 17-3 but stayed in first place in the league.
Jared Bartling finished with a career-best 24 in a senior night loss to Minnesota State. He also had 10 rebounds in the 95-84 defeat, which drops the Wildcats to 8-16, 5-15.
» The Bellevue men are ranked No. 10 in NAIA Division II after winning 10 of their last 11 games. The Bruins are 23-5 and in first place in the MCAC at 10-2.
Senior guard Lee Ames scored a career-high 33 points and set the single-game school record with nine 3-pointers in Bellevue’s 108-62 win over Waldorf College last week. He ranks fourth in NAIA Division II with a 48.5 3-point percentage.
» Hastings College’s Jenn Maag is ranked first in the shot put (49- 1⁄4) and fifth in the weight throw (56-71⁄2).
» Grace University will host the National Christian College Athletics Association Division II Central Region men’s and women’s basketball tournaments Feb. 28 and March 1. The men are 17-12 and 5-1 against Central Region foes. The women are 4-20.
» No. 12 College of St. Mary broke College of the Ozarks’ 73-game home conference win streak on Saturday with its 74-70 win.