- David Jablonski Staff Writer
The Wittenberg Tigers ran off the court with an 82-70 victory against Ohio Wesleyan on Saturday forgetting one thing — they still had to cut down the nets.
The sixth-ranked Tigers (26-2) could be forgiven. This was their first North Coast Athletic Conference tournament championship since 2006. They hadn’t won the title at Pam Evans Smith Arena since 2002. They turned back the clock with a dominant performance in the second half, adding to what already has been one of the great seasons in school history.
“I’m at a loss for words right now,” senior Chad Roy said. “It’s huge for the program. It’s huge for the players. We’re just so excited to finally get this done. It’s been a long four years.”
Wittenberg had lost the last three times it advanced to the championship game. This time, it broke open a close game that was tied 35-35 at halftime with a run midway through the second half. The Tigers stuck to what was working, and that was getting ball to Roy and the other big man, sophomore Connor Seipel.
Seipel, who was named MVP of the tournament, scored 28 points on 14-of-17 shooting. Roy made 13 of 17 shots and scored 26 points.
Wittenberg’s guards put Seipel and Roy in position to succeed. Mitch Balser had 11 assists. Jake Bertemes had eight.
“They made it easy,” Roy said. “They hit me right in the spots. All I had to do was lay it in. It was a team effort every night for us. We’re inside-out all the time. We get the bigs going and the guards going. It’s been like that all year. It’s been a huge success for us.”
Ohio Wesleyan dominated the early part of the first six minutes of the first half, taking a 19-8 lead on a 3-pointer by Seth Clark at the 14:20 mark. The Tigers climbed back into the game with a 19-8 run and took a 29-28 lead on a layup by Seipel at the 5:44 mark.
Wittenberg earned the NCAC’s automatic berth in the NCAA Division III tournament and likely will host games in the first and second rounds — and possibly the third and fourth rounds if it advances past the first weekend. The selection show takes place at 12:30 p.m. Monday.
This was only the second NCAC championship game matching Wittenberg and Ohio Wesleyan, even though they had combined for 26 appearances. Wittenberg won the first matcup 86-82 in 1990.
Women’s game: Wittenberg lost 73-39 to Oberlin in the NCAC championship game on Saturday in Greencastle, Ind. The Tigers upset No. 1 seed DePauw 72-68 in the semifinals Friday. Wittenberg finished the season 16-12.