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Clear eyes, full hearts

Emotionally-charged Beavers upend Marauders for first NSIC win

Alex Eisen/MDN Minot State guard Max Cody (5) makes a pass inside to David Akibo (15) Sunday evening at the Minot State Dome. Akibo scored a career-high 29 points against U-Mary.

Kyle Beisch wasn’t in the building, but his agony was still present on the Minot State sideline.

While the junior guard was back home mourning the loss his mother, the Beavers — playing with heavy hearts for their teammate — picked up their first conference win of the season.

The inspired Minot State men’s basketball team (6-9, 1-5 NSIC) dominated the first half Sunday afternoon to split the season series with their rivals to the south, the University of Mary (6-6, 3-3 NSIC).

The Beavers won 77-61 at the Minot State Dome.

“It’s been an emotional last few days for our team,” MSU head coach Matt Murken said. “It’s a really close-knit team, and with Kyle’s mom passing away, it hit a lot of guys. Life is a lot bigger than basketball. But, at the same time, all of these guys united to support each other… They wanted to play well for him.”

MSU redshirt freshman Drake Jeffries, filling in for Beisch, started his third game of his collegiate career and went off.

The 6-foot-5 guard showed off his hops early on with a breakaway dunk and then his shooting stroke by going 5-for-6 behind the arc in the game.

Jeffries posted a career-high 21 points. His previous best was 11 points against Yellowstone Christian College on Nov. 13.

“I haven’t come out like that in a while,” Jeffries said. “We felt good and knew this was a game we had a good shot of winning.”

Sophomore Dorian Aluyi kept the Beavers’ momentum rolling in an exceptional first half with another high-flying dunk, followed by a successful three-point play.

After 20 minutes of solid defense and spurts of unstoppable offense, MSU had pulled away for a 47-24 lead. Jeffries, Max Cody and David Akibo each had 13 points at the break.

The second half belonged to Akibo, who finished with a career-high 29 points.

The bruising 6-foot-7 forward scored the first eight points for MSU in the second half. On defense, Akibo also pulled down 14 rebounds, blocked four shots and nabbed four steals.

“I was just getting what the defense gave me,” Akibo said about his offensive performance. “We were missing Kyle (Beisch), so I knew I had to step up big time on both ends of the floor.”

The Marauders used an 11-0 run to get within 13 points, 63-50, with roughly six minutes remaining.

Jaylan White, a junior guard, was U-Mary’s catalyst in mounting the comeback with 18 of his team-high 20 points coming in the second half.

But, Akibo pulled the Beavers across the finish line with a key block and eight of MSU’s last 12 points.

Jeffries added a backdoor cut dunk in the final minutes for a deserved exclamation point.

“Those of us who are here every day sees flashes of how good he can be,” Murken said about Jeffries. “Drake (Jeffries), Kody Dwyer, Nibra (White) and Aleksa (Coucovic) are playing for the first time (as newcomers). Those guys have to learn how to be aggressive all the time. But, when they are attacking, attack smart.”

Nibra White played critical minutes in the absence of Beisch and was an effective spark plug before fouling out late in the game.

Looking ahead, after snapping a five-game losing streak, the Beavers will welcome Minnesota State Mankato (Jan. 4) and Concordia-St. Paul (Jan. 5) to the MSU Dome next weekend.

Alex Eisen covers Minot State athletics, the Minot Minotauros and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @AEisen13.

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