The Lake Forest College men's basketball team won 68-64 at St. Norbert College on Saturday in the final of the 2019 Midwest Conference Tournament. The Foresters now advance to the NCAA Division III Tournament for the first time in school history.
The game was close throughout, with neither team leading by more than seven points. The Foresters were ahead by that amount early in the opening half before an 11-1 run by the Green Knights put them on top. Thay was the first of three lead changes in the half, which also included six ties and ended with the teams knotted at 34.
The second half was filled with runs by both teams. St. Norbert scored the first six points but Lake Forest accounted for the 13 of the next 15 to take a 47-42 lead with 12:46 left. After surrendering 11 points in a row, the Foresters responded with an 11-point run of their own and led 58-53 with six minutes to play. The home team then rattled off seven straight points and led by two again at 62-60 with 4:07 remaining. A three-pointer by Forester senior forward Danny Sotos put the visitors on top and classmate Jordan Moran added a free throw but a basket by the Knights tied the game at 64 with 2:48 to play. A layup by Moran beat the shot clock on the next possession and gave the Foresters a lead they would no relinquish. They held St. Norbert scoreless the rest of the way and clinched the victory with a pair of free throws by sophomore guard Sean Espinosa with less than three seconds on the clock.
Sotos and Espinosa tied for game-high honors with 19 points apiece while Moran and junior guard Aram Arslanian each finished with 14. Espinosa and Moran led Lake Forest with seven rebounds apiece and freshman guard Tashon Brown's five assists matched the entire Green Knight team.
Both teams made 24 field goals, although eight of the Foresters' were three-pointers while St. Norbert connected just five times from beyond the arc. Lake Forest was out-rebounded 35-32 but forced 11 turnovers while committing just 8.
Lake Forest was playing in the final of the MWC Tournament for just the third time in team history and the NCAA Tournament bid that comes with winning the event is a program first. The Foresters will enter the tournament 18-9. Their opponent and the site of next weekend's regional tourney will be announced by the NCAA on Monday.