Oakland downs Vikings, date with Milwaukee will decide champion

Photo courtesy of Oakland Athletics

When Blake Lampman, Trey Townsend and Chris Conway walked off the floor after the 2021 Horizon League Final against Cleveland State, they were understandably sad. All three though, understood they had time left to get back. However it didn’t happen after a first place start in 2022, and again after a hot start in 2023.

Now in 2024, with Lampman and (presumably) Townsend watching the clock on their Oakland careers ticking down. They finally found themselves back. Back in Indy, and back against Cleveland State. 

This time, they were gonna make sure they walked off with a different feeling.

And they did.

Oakland advanced to the Horizon League Championship game for the second time in the last four seasons with a 74-71 win over Cleveland State. 

Although the three longtime Golden Grizzlies were the ones in the fight for so many years, it was two of their teammates leading the scoring charge on this night.

Jack Gohlke made seven threes en route to a team high 21 points, while DQ Cole poured in 20, including 14 in the first half.

“Players make plays,” Gohlke said. “Me and my teammates have worked so hard just to get to this stage and make those plays.”

Everytime Oakland needed a big shot, Gohlke provided it. With Rocket Watts and Isaiah Jones out of the lineup and Lampman hobbled by multiple injuries, every one of his shots were needed.

Coles were needed as well. He has shown off an elite ability to get the basket in recent weeks, and it is paying off, especially with all the attention spread out around him. 

Of course, the league’s player of the year was not silent on a stage like this. Trey Townsend got to the line and made 9-11 from the line. On a night he struggled from the floor he still found a way to get 15 points, while also grabbing 8 rebounds and dishing 4 assists.

Tone Hunter added 6 assists, while Conway went 3-4 for 8 points. Conway provided a deflection and a stop on first teamer Tristan Enaruna in crunch time, once again displaying his defensive improvement.

Late in the game, Oakland wasn’t perfect. Missed opportunities at the free throw line, a foul on a three point shooter up 4 with under 5 seconds to play, and a miscue defensively all contributed to the grind it out finish. But Oakland never faltered, and ended up the team ahead at the end.

“A Lot of things that happened tonight have happened to us,” said Coach Greg Kampe.” You’ll see some of the dumbest pLays you’ll see during this tournament week and tonight you saw us make a few of them. In the past seven or eight years we would have lost at the buzzer.”

“But not tonight.”

The Golden Grizzlies will need that late game knack one more time if they are going to achieve their ultimate goal of making the NCAA Tournament. 

They are 40 minutes away, and one team stands in their way. Milwaukee.

Milwaukee has a 6 by their name on the seed line, but this is a talented bunch. BJ Freeman is certainly a top player in the league, but injuries kept him on the second team. Oakland was able to take down the Panthers twice this year, but both were highly contested high scoring affairs that could’ve gone either way.

It will be some show tonight at Indiana Farmers Coliseum. The game will tip off at 7pm on ESPN.

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