Heading into NCAC tournament time, the Tigers Men’s Basketball team was 20-5 and had a seven-game win streak.
“It’s tourney time,” exclaimed head coach Matt Croci to Wittenberg Athletics. “We’re excited for the second season and realize we need to continue playing at a high level.”
Men’s Basketball NCAC Quarterfinals
On Tuesday, February 19, the Tigers went head-to-head with the Battling Bishops of Ohio Wesleyan University in the NCAC Quarterfinals and came out on the other side in a 73-51 victory.
The game started off with a dunk from James Johnson, ’21, that set the tone for its entirety. A minute into the game, the Battling Bishops had missed a layup and a jumper, before a block from Connor Seipel, ’20, and a rebound from Mitchell Balser, ’19, gave Johnson the opportunity.
Drawing a foul, Johnson hit the free-throw line and put the Tigers ahead 3-0. With shot after shot and point after point being scored by Seipel and Johnson, the Tigers were up 11-0 with 14 minutes remaining in the half. After a three-point shot from Landon Martin, ’21, and another layup from Seipel the Tigers broadened their lead to 16-0.
With 12 minutes left in the half, Ohio Wesleyan was finally able to score on a layup and add a free-throw. Seipel put up another layup putting the score at 20-3, it was two minutes of back-and-forth before anyone was able to score again.
Coming out of the half, the Tigers had an 18-point lead and quickly stretched it to 27 points. The Red and White continued to gain momentum while the Battling Bishops struggled to catch up. Jake Bertemes, ’20, sank a three-pointer, solidifying the lead.
With nine minutes left, the Tigers and OWU had back-to-back scoring plays. The first sailing in from Bertemes, followed by a layup from the Bishops and a three-pointer from Levi Boettcher, ’22.
At the end of the night, the Tigers had conquered the quarterfinals. Seipel lead in points with 29 and rebounds with 13, landing his fifteenth double-double of the season. Jordan Pumroy, ’20, and Martin lead in assists with two each. Witt shot 45.3% from the floor with 41 rebounds and 10 assists. There were 21 points from the bench, 36 points in the paint and 20 points off of turnovers.
Men’s Basketball NCAC Semifinals
Moving on, the Tigers took on Wabash College in the semifinals, winning 89-75.
Heading out on the court, the Little Giants and Tigers went shot for shot with Balser starting it off after sinking a jump shot. Each time the Red and White gained a lead, the Little Giants were right behind them, keeping the game neck-and-neck.
The first lead of the game that was over two points came from the Tigers’ Bertemes with making a layup and pushing the Tigers ahead 10-6. Wabash slowly closed the lead while Martin put up free-throws attempting to keep the Little Giants at bay. With a little over 10 minutes left in the half, Pumroy put up a shot from beyond the arc and put the Tigers ahead 21-17. But, the Little Giants kept coming back.
Fewer points were being scored as the half wound down. With five minutes left, there were back-to-back scoring plays as Johnson and the Little Giants went back and forth. Going into the half, the Tigers lead 46-31.
Coming out of the locker room, neither team wasted anytime with the first scoring play going up 17 seconds and Johnson turning around putting two more points up.
Slowly, the Little Giants pulled out a tough defense and began closing the gap. The Tigers fought to maintain their lead, with Bertemes putting up another jumper followed by another layup and a jumper from Seipel.
With a little over a minute remaining, Seipel put up two free-throws that solidified a 17-point lead followed by a three-pointer from Rashaad Ali-Shakir, ’21.
Lead scorer of the night was Johnson with 19 points. Seipel lead in rebounds with nine and Balser rounded it out with eight assists. The Tigers shot 56.1% from the court, for a while they just couldn’t miss. There were 27 rebounds, 26 points off of turnovers, 28 points in the paint and 18 points from the bench.
Men’s Basketball NCAC Championship
Finally, the Tigers went up against the Fighting Scots of the College of Wooster in the team’s third match-up of the season. In their previous match-up, the Red and White beat out the Fighting Scots on their senior day, 84-74, after a harsh loss earlier in the season. On Saturday, the Tigers were victorious, again, 79-75.
The game started off with the Fighting Scots scoring a jumper and two free-throws before Pumroy sank a three-pointer and put the Tigers on the board. Seipel put up four points shortly after, snagging a narrow lead.
Wooster was on the Tigers’ heels all night. Each time the Red and White would score the Fighting Scots were there to try and close the gap. Bertemes was fighting to keep the lead after putting up a jumper and then a layup with an assist from Seipel.
With 10:50 left in the half, Wooster tied the game at 19. Sinking two three-pointers the Fighting Scots opened a six-point lead. Johnson pushed back and put up two points attempting to close the gap and regain the lead for the Tigers.
Going into the half, Johnson missed a three-pointer and the buzzer sounded solidifying the Fighting Scots’ 41-36 lead.
The Tigers and the Fighting Scots went back and forth for the entirety of the second half. With less than eight minutes left, the game was tied 65-65. Seipel put up five points attempting to maintain the lead that the Tigers had obtained.
There was a second left when Balser went to the free-throw line and put two points up and finalized the 79-75 victory. The Tigers were NCAC Champions for the second year in a row.
Balser lead in points with 19 and assists with three. Seipel lead in rebounds with eight. Overall, the Tigers shot 54.7% from the floor and put up 34 points in the paint.
The Tigers will be heading to Greensboro, N.C. to take on Emory University in the first round of the NCAA DIII men’s basketball tournament. The Eagles are currently 20-5, and on a three-game win streak. They average 93.1 points, 41.8 rebounds and 17.2 assists a game.