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(March 22)
--  For the second straighht season, the higher seeds prevailed in all four games on the opening day of the 2017 Elite Eight in Sioux Falls Wednesday afternoon, with the top three ranked teams in the nation included among the national semifinalists.

Complete Interactive Tournament Bracket ... 2016-17 All-America Teams: D2CCA / Basketball Times / NABC

Top-seeded Fairmont State, the third-ranked in NCAA Division II, used an 11-0 run early in the second half to break open a tight game to beat Rollins 86-68, while Bellarmine shot nearly 60 percent from the field in eliminating Colorado School of Mines 92-72 in the second game.

Wednesday's evening session saw No. 1-ranked Northwest Missouri State top St. Thomas Aquinas 79-70 in the opener; the Bearcats will take on Lincoln Memorial, a 74-61 winner over Chico State in the nightcap.

SEMIFINAL RECAPS (Click above links for game statistics)

Fairmont State 79, Bellarmine 68

Fairmont State used a swarming defensive effort to capture the first semifinal contest, holding Bellarmine without a three-point basket in the first half and forcing 12 turnovers along the way to build as much as a 23-point lead in the period. The Falcons made eight threes themselves and took a 20-point lead to the locker room before Bellarmine made a run in the second half.

The Knights (32-4), shot 57.7 percent in the second half and closed the gap to eight, but behind the shooting of D'Ondre Stockman, the Falcons (34-2) reached their first championship game at the NCAA Division II level.

Stockman led four Falcons in double figures with a career-high 23 points, while Rusty Troutman and Adam Eberhard had 15 apiece to lead Bellarmine. Eberhard had 13 rebounds and finished one assist shy of a triple-double in the contest.

QUARTERFINAL RECAPS (Click above links for game statistics)

Fairmont State 86, Rollins 68

After jumping out to a double-figure lead in the first half -- only to see Rollins cut the lead to one by halftime -- Fairmont State took control of the first contest of the afternoon as it used an 11-0 run to take another double-digit lead that it would not relinquish.

Jason Jolly, who helped spark the run, scored a career-high 28 points and connected seven times from three-point range as the Falcons (33-2) hit 13 shots from beyond the arc. He got scoring help from Vonte Montgomery, who finished with 21 points and Thomas Wimbush, who added 15.

The Falcons held Rollins (24-11) to just 38 percent from the floor in the second half after the Tars had made 62 percent of their tries in the opening half of action. Sam Philpott led Rollins with 22 points>

Bellarmine 92, Colorado School of Mines 72

The Knights, the top field goal shooting team in NCAA Division II, used a surge over the final 10 minutes of the first half to build a 16-point halftime lead and cruised into the semifinal round for the fourth time in the last seven years.

Adam Eberhard paced Bellarmine with 26 points -- going 10-of-12 from the field -- as the Knights shot 59 percent from the field and made 10 three-pointers in the contest. On the other end, the Knight defense held the Orediggers to just 37 percent shooting and to eight-of-32 in the second half to improve to 32-3.

Luke Schroepfer led Colorado School of Mines (30-5), making its first-ever appearance at the Elite Eight, with 18 points.

Northwest Missouri State 79, St. Thomas Aquinas 70

Northwest Missouri State advanced to the NCAA Division II semifinals for the first time ever by holding off St. Thomas Aquinas in the first evening semifinal, as the top-ranked Bearcats got 26 points from Justin Pitts to come away with the win.

Pitts finished with 26 points to lead Northwest (33-1), which survived nine second half turnovers and a 55.2 percent shooting performance by the Spartans in the final 20 minutes, as they made 50 percent of their own shots and which included five three-pointers..

Justin Reyes recorded his 41st straight double figure outing with a game-high 28 points to lead St. Thomas Aquinas (28-6), who was making its first-ever Elite Eight appearance.

Lincoln Memorial 74, Chico State 61

Wednesday's final contest had 16 lead changes and 15 ties, the last of which was at 54 apiece following a basket by Chico State's Justin Briggs with 8:03 to play. However, the Railsplitters scored 13 of the next 14 points and outscored the Wildcats 20-7 to close the game to advance to the semifinals.

Luquon Choice had 22 points to lead the Railsplitters (30-5), who advanced beyond the first round of the Elite Eight for the second year in successsion. Lincoln Memorial shot 55.2 percent in the second half to overcome a sluggish first half from the field and move along in the tournament.

Chico State (26-8) was led by Robert Duncan with 18 points, while Isaiah Ellis finished with 16 and 10 rebounds.