This past week, the men’s basketball team played in three different games in Pam Evans Smith Arena and advanced all the way to the North Coast Athletic Conference Tournament Championship game against the College of Wooster. Unfortunately, the Tigers fell short Saturday, Feb. 29, against the Fighting Scots and lost 87-63.
On Tuesday, Feb. 25 the Tigers hosted the Battling Bishops of Ohio Wesleyan University. This was the thirty-first Quarterfinal game for the Tigers since they joined the NCAC back in 1989. The red and white beat the Battling Bishops, 69-55. Connor Seipel (’20) lead in points with 18 and in rebounds with 25, this was his 16 double-double this season. Jake Bertemes (’20) lead in assists with four.
The Tigers shot 38.8 percent from the hardwood, managed 41 rebounds and 18 assists. There were 14 points put up off of turnovers, 22 points in the paint and 20 points from the bench. This victory lead Wittenberg to the Semifinal game against the Yeomen of Oberlin College.
On Friday, Feb. 28, the Yeomen traveled to the Pam Evans Smith Arena to play against the Tigers. The red and white beat out the Yeomen, 67-47 and that victory would put them in the Championship game. Going into the game, Wittenberg was ranked as fourth, Division III team in the nation by D3Hoops.com.
James Johnson (’21) lead in points for the Tigers with 22 and in rebounds with nine. Landon Martin (’21) lead in assists with three. On the floor the red and white shot 42.3 percent, managed 36 rebounds, eight assists and 13 points off of turnovers. There were 28 points in the paint and 15 points from the bench.
On Saturday, Feb. 29, in the red and white’s eighteenth appearance in the NCAC Championship game, the stands were filled with Tiger and Fighting Scots fans alike, the atmosphere was electric. “It’s a great atmosphere,” Brian Yontz said, Associate Professor of education. Going into the game, the Tigers were the number one seed in the NCAC tournament while Wooster was seeded third.
Prior to this game, Wooster and Wittenberg had faced off twice, once in Wooster, OH and a few weeks ago in the Pam Evans Smith Arena. The Tigers fell in the first match-up but managed to beat out the Fighting Scots in their second go-round.
The Fighting Scots were quick to jump out ahead of the Tigers. The first points of the night went to Bertemes who drew a foul and was sent to the free throw line, putting the Tigers on the board 7-2. The red and white were finally able to catch up to Wooster when Rashaad Ali-Shakir (’21) attempted a three-point shot that nicked the rim, but thankfully Johnson was in the paint and rebounded the ball to turn around and put up a jumper, tying the game 12-12.
At the half, Wittenberg was trailing Wooster 37-34. This was the fourth time that the Tigers have been down at the end of the first half. Coming out of the locker room, Johnson managed to close the gap again after anther three-pointer, 39-39.
Slowly, Wooster managed to lengthen the gap and Wittenberg never managed to catch up. The Tigers put up their last points when Levi Boettcher (’22) managed a layup with 2:50 left to play. The Fighting Scots scored four times after the Tigers layup and rounded out the score, 87-36.
Seipel was the lead scorer for the Tigers putting up 18 points and managing eight rebounds. Ali-Shakir and Seipel tied for the lead in assists with three apiece. The Tigers shot 46.3 percent from the floor, pulled down 22 rebounds and had nine assists. There were 34 points put up in the paint, 16 second chance points, 13 points from the bench and 18 points scored off of turnovers.
At the conclusion of the game, the Fighting Scots were named the winners of the NCAC Tournament, with the Tigers NCAC regular season champions. Seipel and Johnson were both named to the NCAC All-Tournament team.
On Monday, March 2, it was announced that Wittenberg will be hosting rounds one and two for their pool in the NCAA Division III bracket. On Friday, March 6, the Tigers will be facing the Red Hawks of La Roche University at 6 p.m. in the Pam Evans Smith Arena. Prior to that, the Eagles of Benedictine University will be playing against the River Hawks of Susquehanna University at 3:30 p.m. The victors of both of these games will go on to round two and will face off at 6 p.m. on Saturday, March 7.