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College basketball: Schilling, Huisken help Augustana to national title

JOEY AHLQUIST/ARGUS LEADER USED WITH PERMISSION Augustana’s Casey Schilling (32) pushes past Minnesota State Moorhead’s Addison Park (41) during the NSIC championship game Tuesday, March 1, at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls. Schilling, an Ellsworth native, helped the Vikings to the first national championship in program history Saturday.1 / 2
JOEY AHLQUIST/ARGUS LEADER USED WITH PERMISSION Augustana’s Zach Huisken (33) goes up for a shot as Winona State’s Nick Arenz (25, left, and Corey Jeffs (3), right, defend during a NSIC semifinal game Monday, Feb. 29, at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls. The Chandler native stepped into a starting role in the Elite Eight and scored 13 points for the Vikings.2 / 2

FRISCO, Texas — The Augustana Vikings men’s basketball team are national champions after defeating top-seeded Lincoln Memorial in the Division II men’s basketball championship Saturday.

Augustana struck first and never let off the gas, outlasting Lincoln Memorial until the final score read 90-81. For the first time in school history, an Augustana basketball team became national champions.

The Vikings of Sioux Falls jumped out to an early 13-4 lead, eight of which came at the hands of Alex Richter, a senior guard from Lakeville. Richter made all four of his three-point attempts and finished with a game-high 26 points. He scored a combined 73 points in his final three games as a Viking.

The Railsplitters crawled back into the game as Augustana’s offense got stuck on 15 points. Following the season’s script, Casey Schilling, a senior forward from Ellsworth, knocked down two free throws to end the dry spell.

“These guys don’t miss many, but when they do, I’m going to try to be under the hoop and get one back,” Schilling said. “If your shot is not going the way you want it, you’ve got to find other ways to help out your team.”

All season — his entire Augustana career, rather — Schilling played the role of the hard-working inside force that can always be counted on to make a basket to end an offensive lull or rip down a rebound at just the right moment. In recognition of his historic season, Schilling was named to the Basketball Times NCAA Division II All-American first team with teammate Dan Jansen, a senior forward from Orange City, Iowa. Both big men also earned National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) All-America team honors.

Schilling ended his career in true Casey Schilling fashion by recording a double-double, his 14th of the season. Never leaving the court, Schilling pulled in 19 rebounds, scored 20 points, made two steals, and had an assist.

Schilling is the second from his family to play under Augustana coach — and Basketball Times Division II Coach of the Year — Tom Billeter. Casey’s older brother, Cody Schilling, graduated from Augustana in 2012 as the school’s all-time scoring leader. His eldest brother, Curt Schilling, played at Northwestern College and is currently head coach of the George-Little Rock High School boys basketball team. Their mother, Carla Schilling, holds the all-time scoring record for the Little Rock Rockets, before they teamed up with George.

Casey ends his Augustana basketball career as number two on the all-time scoring list, trailing only Jansen. This season, Casey surpassed Cody, who is currently fourth in the Augustana record books. The season finale means an end to an era of Augustana basketball that has grown accustomed to seeing a Schilling on the court.

“I wish I would’ve had Curt, too,” Billeter said with a chuckle after becoming a national champion head coach. “I’m so mad the Schillings didn’t have another son.”

On a bit more serious level, Billeter emphasized the importance of family, both as a team culture and his way of recruiting. Jansen’s younger brother, Levi, will join the Augustana basketball team next season.

“These are great families,” Billeter said. “Just great people.”

After rebounding from a left leg injury early in the week, which forced him to sit out the Elite Eight game and over half of the Final Four game, Jansen added 25 points in the title game, including making 11-of-12 free throws.

While the season and college basketball careers come to an end, the memories will last a while. That is, of course, once they are pieced together.

“It’s going to take a while to sink in,” junior big-man Zach Huisken, of Chandler, said. “I can’t believe it.”

Huisken filled the starting role void left by the injured Jansen in the first game of the week, contributing 13 points.

Augustana finishes the season with a record of 34-2 and the owners of a national championship banner. Lincoln Memorial ended its season at 34-3.

Augustana will hold a welcome home reception at the Elmen Center in Sioux Falls at 4 p.m. on Tuesday.