April 13, 2024

Men’s Basketball faced the La Roche RedHawks Friday evening in the first round of the NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball Tournament. The Tigers won 83-66 and snapped the RedHawks 13-game winning streak.

The Tigers trailed early as La Roche led by eight with 15:34 remaining in the first. Landon Martin (’21) started the Tigers comeback as he shot two from the line following the under-16 media timeout.

“It took our guys a few minutes to get settled in and get some stops and get the ball off the rim and get to the offensive end,” Head Coach Matt Croci said, “I wouldn’t say we executed perfectly and we didn’t play perfectly but we competed.”

Rashaad Ali-Shakir (’21) tied the game at 24 off a three-pointer with 8:50 remaining in the first. La Roche responded with a layup. Jake Bertemes (’20) then took the red and white’s first lead of the night off a three-pointer for a lead of 27-26 with seven minutes to go. The Tigers went to the locker room leading 43-35 over the RedHawks.

The Tigers returned from the locker room and took charge as they increased the lead to nine. Jordan Pumroy (’20) made a three-pointer jump shot to increase the lead to 11, as the Tigers led 54-43 with 16:53 remaining. Bertemes then completed a free throw to make the lead a dozen points. La Roche pushed back as they eroded the lead to six with just under 15 minutes left in the half.  Bertemes and Connor Seipel (’20) worked to increase the lead back to double digits as they completed consecutive layups. The red and white led the RedHawks 59-49 with 13:31 remaining in the second.

Wittenberg Tigers junior guard Landon Martin (1) is guarded by three La Roche RedHawks players during the NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball Championship First Round at Wittenberg University on March 6, 2020. The Tigers defeated the RedHawks, 83-66 and advanced to the second round where they will face the Susquehanna River Hawks at 6:00pm on Saturday.

Seipel then ended a two-minute period of no scoring as he completed a layup at the 11:15 mark. The red and white continued to hold the RedHawks at an arm’s length as the Tigers lead remained at 10-plus until a La Roche free throw with 5:29 remaining. Ali-Shakir returned the lead to double digits on a three-pointer with five minutes remaining. The Tigers would add nails to the coffin for the RedHawks as they increased the lead to 17 in the last minute.

The red and white completed 28 of 56 from the field for 50-percent and were 50-percent from beyond the arc as they shot 12-24.

“I probably could have had a few more, I’m greedy as a coach,” Croci said, “We had 10 assists in the first half which was a really good number for where we were. The game changed in the second half as [La Roche] started picking us up full court and trying to foul a little bit. When we’re unselfish and move the ball around, we’re a challenge to defend.”

Bertemes was the Tiger’s leading scorer with 20 points including draining both attempts from beyond the arc, in addition to leading the red and white with four assists.

“I love playing in the tournament and even if shots aren’t falling in, I know I can affect the game in other ways, be it defense or getting guys like James [Johnson (’21)] the ball,” Bertemes said. “Even when the balls not going in, I know I can do a couple of things to help us win.”

The Tigers advance to the second round of the tournament where they will face Susquehanna at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday in the Pam Evans Smith Arena. The Tigers head into the second round on a one-game winning streak after falling to Wooster in the NCAC Championship game. Susquehanna heads into the match-up on an eight-game winning streak, with their last loss coming on Feb. 5 in overtime. The River Hawks defeated Benedictine, 64-59, in the first round and are 21-7 overall.

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