Jaelin Williams caught the pass from Cody Phillippi. He passed on the shot for a half second and then stepped back and let it fly. The 3-pointer with 41 seconds left broke a 58-58 tie and propelled the Wittenberg Tigers to a 63-60 victory over the Capital Crusaders on Tuesday in Bexley.
“Last year we would have lost that game for sure,” Williams said. “That was every game last year, just that same format. It’s great to get a win going into conference play.”
The Tigers (3-1) lost four games by four points or fewer last season. With 14.7 points per game, the Shawnee graduate Williams was the leading scorer for a team that finished 14-12.
Williams started every game last season but is coming off the bench this season until he’s 100 percent recovered from offseason knee surgery. He said he’s 80 percent healthy.
“It’s tough,” Williams said. “There are still aches and pains. It is what it is. There’s nothing I can do about it now. I don’t know if it’s more mental or physical now. I’m getting there.”
The Tigers finished 2-0 in the NCAC/OAC Challenge for the second straight year. They beat Otterbein 56-49 at Ohio Wesleyan on Nov. 22. They will play one more road game at 1 p.m. Saturday at Allegheny in their North Coast Athletic Conference opener before playing a home game for the first time under new coach Matt Croci at 7 p.m. Dec. 7 against DePauw.
Landon Hormann and Chad Roy led the Tigers with 14 points against Capital. Shane Edwards scored nine. Hormann hit two free throws with 18 seconds left, and Capital missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
The Tigers made 7 of 17 3-pointers (41.7 percent). Williams made 2 of 4 3-pointers, including the big one that put the Tigers ahead for good in a back-and-forth game.
“It was a great drive by my teammate,” Williams said. “I’m just standing there wide open. I committed a turnover a minute before that which could have lost us the game. I’m just glad I could make that shot, and we could get out of here with a win.”
Williams had 10 points and seven rebounds in 29 minutes.
“It starts with his approach,” Croci said. “There’s a lot of work that’s done before that shot. That’s the end that you see. He’s put a lot of time into his rehab to get back to us. Here’s a guy who’s a second-team all-league guy as a junior. Even though he’s injured, he’s still coming off the bench. He’s accepted it until he gets fully healthy and we can get him back to where he belongs. He’s accepted that, and not everybody does that. We’ve always talked to him about being down and ready to shoot. With Cody and Ryan (Gallimore) and some of the other guards creating, he was down and ready. He passed the first one up and then realized, ‘The shot clock’s going, I’ve got to shoot it.’ He’s a great shooter. That’s a senior experience play. Huge obviously.”