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Falcons show power in post

Len Matela, Brent Klassen and Josh Almanson are 241 inches of low-post fury. At least they have been as of late.

Matela, Klassen and Almanson have occupied most of the minutes at center and power forward for the Bowling Green basketball team this season, but their trench work has been largely overshadowed by the superlative performances of All-American candidate Keith McLeod. In victories against Ohio and Marshall last week, however, that changed. The 6′ 8″ Almanson and Klassen and the 6′ 9″ Matela lifted the team up on some very high shoulders to two of their most decisive wins of the year, and not a moment too soon. Last week’s wins followed a loss to Kent last Monday that effectively ended any chance for the Falcons to make a run at a division title.

In Saturday’s 83-60 win over Marshall, Brent Klassen had the best game of his collegiate career, going 8-for-8 from the field to set a school record for field goal percentage in a game. He finished with 16 points in 27 minutes. Matela did even better, scoring a game-high 23 points including 11-for-12 shooting from the free-throw line and pulling down 12 rebounds. It was his 29th career double-double.

“In close games, it was close because we didn’t come out in the second half as well as we could have,” Klassen said. “We focused on talking a lot more in the locker room, just communicating, keeping what we had going in the first half into the second half.” Saturday, Klassen took that philosophy to heart. He scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half, including a steal and open-floor breakaway for a dunk.

“Klassen is a kid who has persevered and worked and worked,” coach Dan Dakich said Saturday. “I thought (today) was a great example. He hit jump shots, he hit hooks, he went to the post, he rebounded and he defended. I thought he had an absolutely dynamite basketball game.”

Almanson’s contributions haven’t shown up as readily on the stat sheet, but there has been a noticeable increase in the intensity of his play. He finished with eight points Saturday but was aggressive in the paint, helping to hold the Thundering Herd’s frontcourt pillars, J.R. VanHoose and Latece Williams, to 11 and three points respectively. On the offensive end, Almanson attacked the rim, coming away with a vicious two-fisted dunk to go with the two he had against Ohio.

With the third seed on the line in the Mid-American Conference and six games left in the regular season, the big men are going to have to play up to their stature in the coming weeks if the Falcons want to make any noise in Cleveland next month.

“These games are huge,” Klassen said after Saturday’s win. “It is good to start off the stretch run this way.”

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