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UW-River Falls Falcon sports update

Players and staff on the UW-River Falls men's basketball team, including Brian Kimble and Ollie White holding the championship plaque, and head coach Jeff Berkhof, second from left, celebrate their WIAC Tournament championship after defeating UW-Whitewater, 64-58, at Kachel Gymnasium in Whitewater Sunday afternoon. It's the first WIAC Tournament title in school history. The Falcons will host NCAA National Tournament first and second round games this weekend at Karges Center. Photo courtesy ProProductions

Men's Basketball Falcons WIAC Tourney champs

The third time was the charm for the UW-River Falls men's basketball team.

After losing to UW-Whitewater twice during the regular season, the second-seeded Falcons battled back from an eight-point halftime deficit to defeat the No. 1 seed Warhawks, 64-58, in the WIAC Tournament Championship game at Kachel Gymnasium in Whitewater Sunday afternoon.

The victory gave the Falcons their first-ever WIAC Tournament title and clinched the conference's automatic berth in the NCAA Division III National Tournament. UWRF (20-7) will host first and second round games this weekend at Karges Center, taking on Edgewater College (22-6) in a first-round game Friday at 8 p.m.

This is the second straight year the Falcons have earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Last year's team lost to Illinois Wesleyan, 83-76, in a first round game.

"It's great to be back in the NCAA tourney for a second straight year," said Falcon coach and Hudson resident Jeff Berkhof. "The experience of playing in the tourney last year will only help us this year.  We had a taste of it and I know the guys want to have a better showing this time around."

The Falcons used a strong second half Sunday to earn some revenge over the Warhawks, who edged the Falcons, 55-53, on a last-second shot for the WIAC regular season championship a week earlier.

"It was a total team effort today," a happy Berkhof said after the game. "We had different players step up for us throughout the game."

Wade Guerin led the effort with 18 points and nine rebounds, while Brian Kimble had a strong effort as well, posting 13 points, including three three-pointers, and three steals. 

Taylor Peterson provided a spark off the bench, with nine points, including two three-pointers. The Falcons' leading scorer in the regular season, Shane Manor, scored eight points, including six in the final 1:38, and added three assists and two thefts.

"We did a much better job in the second half of doing what we do well," said Berkhof. "The guys really showed some toughness down the stretch."

Men, women both make NCAA Tourney

For the first time in institution history, the Falcon men's and women's basketball teams will be competing in the NCAA Tournament in the same year.

The men's team earned the chance to host first and second round games this weekend. UWRF will face Edgewood College on Friday at 8 p.m. The Eagles won the Northern Athletics Conference playoff title with an 80-72 win over Lakeland College to earn the conference's automatic berth. Edgewood is 22-6.

On Friday at 5:30 p.m., Gustavus Adolphus College will play Wheaton College. Both teams earned at-large berths into the tourney. Wheaton enters the tourney with a 21-6 record while Gustavus Adolphus is 20-7.

Friday's two winners will play at 7 p.m., on Saturday. All games will be played at the Karges Center.

The Falcon women will play Coe College at 5:30 p.m., on Friday at the University of St. Thomas.

The Falcons earned an at-large berth into the tourney based on their 21-6 overall record. Coe won the Iowa Conference Tournament with a 79-59 win over Simpson College on Saturday. They enter the tourney with a 20-7 record.

In the other semifinal game, St. Thomas plays Martin Luther College at 8 p.m., on Friday.

Women skaters to host NCHA finals

The top-seeded UW-River Falls women's hockey team swept No. 6 UW-Eau Claire, 5-0 and 3-0, over the weekend and will host the NCHA O'Brien Cup semifinals and finals this Friday and Saturday at Hunt Arena.

Second-seeded UW-Superior will face third-seed Adrian College in the first semifinal at 3:05 p.m. Friday, while the Falcons will take on No. 4 seed Lake Forest at 7:05 p.m. The winners will meet Saturday at 4:05 p.m. for the O'Brien Cup Championship and the NCHA's automatic berth in the NCAA Division III National Tournament.