The St. Catharine College Patriots were well aware that if the opening round of the NAIA National Tournament became a free throw contest that it could not result in a favorable outcome. And Wednesday’s game was, indeed, decided at the charity stripe – and the outcome was most disappointing for J.T. Burton’s team.
The Lindenwood Lions, 29-5, came into the game in Kansas City as the nation’s top ranked free throw shooters at 74 percent. And they did nothing to hurt that ranking as they made 33 of 40 free throws (82.5 percent) to outlast the Patriots 78-72.
St. Catharine shot 56 percent from the foul line (9-16) while the teams were nearly even on field goal shooting, the Lions at 43.5 percent and the Patriots at 43 percent.
The first round loss ends the St. Catharine season at 22-9. But after the game Burton was able to remain upbeat about the Patriots’ season that saw them end up as runner-up in both the regular season and the tournament in the Mid-South Conference. “Just two years ago (the Patriots’ first NAIA season) we were 1-11 in the conference and look how we finished this year,” said Burton who is in his third season as Patriot mentor. “It is disappointing but we will be back here.”
St. Catharine may have been back for the second round in this tournament if it wasn’t for the sharpshooting of Lions’ point guard Kramer Soderberg. The 6-1 junior, son of Lindenwood’s head coach, made all 11 of his free throw attempts-including six in the final minute- as part of his game high 27 points. The Patriots led 64-62 with 5:52 to play but the Lions scored the next five points to take the lead for good. The Patriots cut the lead to 69-68 but Soderberg repeatedly sank free throws to keep the Lions in control.
Lindenwood, who will move on to the second round against Mountain State, led most of the first half including a 37-33 halftime lead. They made just nine field goals in the second half, and just 20 for the game compared to the Patriots’ 29 field goals. Junior guard Marquis Lee came off the bench to lead the Patriots in scoring with 18 points. Xavier Keeling added 16 points and Kashiff Carr had 15. Antoine Watson had a double-double with 12 points and a game high 10 rebounds. The Patriots held a 43-28 advantage in rebounding.