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UW-RF men's basketball team makes NCAA Tourney for first time ever

UW-River Falls' senior Jontae Koonkaew (12) is congratulated by his teammates, including former Raider Ben Gresmer (center) after scoring 20 of his game-high 23 points in the second half to lift the Falcon men's basketball team to a 69-60 victory over UW-Platteville in a WIAC Tournament semifinal game last Thursday at Karges Center. The victory was the Falcons' 20th of the season and helped them earn one of 18 at-large bids to the NCAA Division III National Tournament for the first time in school history...

The UW-River Falls men's basketball team's quest for a worst-to-first season finished one game short Saturday afternoon when it was beaten by UW-Stevens Point, 79-56, in the WIAC Tournament Championship game.

But by posting an overall record of 20-7 this season, including a school-record 15-game winning streak and a national ranking as high as ninth at one point, the Falcons became one of 61 teams that will compete in the NCAA Division III National Tournament beginning later this week.

The field was announced Monday afternoon and will have UW-RF playing Illinois Wesleyan (19-8) in a regional first-round game Friday, March 4 at 5:30 p.m. at St. Thomas University in St. Paul. Host St. Thomas (24-3) will play Northwestern (21-6), Minn., at 7:30 p.m. Friday. The winners will meet Saturday at 7 p.m. for the right to move on to the Sweet 16.

This will be the Falcons' first appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Illinois Wesleyan is making its second straight and 20th overall NCAA tournament appearance. IWU won the 1997 NCAA title and had third place finishes in 1996, 2001 and 2006.

Last Saturday the Falcons advanced to the WIAC Tournament Championship game for the first time in school history, losing 79-56, at Stevens Point. The Pointers (24-3) claimed the WIAC tournament crown for the third consecutive year and remain undefeated at home in 2011.

Shane Manor of Altoona led the Falcons with 15 points and seven rebounds, while former River Falls High School star Jake Voeltz was the only other Falcon in double digits with 10.

The Falcons advanced to the WIAC Championship game for the first time in school history by defeating UW-Platteville, 69-60, last Thursday.

Jontae Koonkaew and Voeltz finished with 23 and 20 points, respectively, for UWRF. In the final home game of their careers, Koonkaew scored 20 of his 23 points in the second half and Voeltz added 14 after intermission to help the Falcons erase a seven-point Pioneer lead with seven minutes remaining and lead UWRF to its 20th victory of the season, the most since 2004.

Women's hockey to host O'Brien Cup finals

The No. 1-ranked UW-River Falls women's hockey team will host the NCHA O'Brien Cup championship series this weekend at Hunt Arena.

The top-seeded Falcons (23-0-4) will face fifth-seed Concordia University (13-10-4) Friday at 3:05 p.m., while No. 2 seed Adrian College (17-7-3) will play No. 3 UW-Superior (13-7-7) Friday at 7:05 p.m. The winners will face off Saturday at 2:05 p.m. for the O'Brien Cup title and the NCHA's automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.