"We’ve got better karma than most teams.”
If “karma” is code for “Ahmoni Jones,” then Wabash coach Kyle Brumett is totally on the nose, because Jones was on the pointy end of the spear that led the Little Giants to a 76-75 come-from-behind-late-in-the-game win over Ohio Wesleyan on Saturday at Chadwick Court.
The junior from Indianapolis Pike hit not one, not two, but three 3-point shots in the last two minutes to bring his team from down seven to winning by one, and keeping the Little Giants in control of their own destiny in the conference. They are now 17-4 overall and 10-2 in the NCAC. They are tied with league-leading Wooster in the loss column and their last game of the season is at Wooster.
Jones last triple, with 5.8 seconds on the clock, barely rippled the cords.
Jones was halfway back to play defense already. “I knew it was in,” he said, sporting the confident look of the team leader he has become.
That third three was the game-winner, but it was the one before that had all 546 fans and both sets of coaches shaking their heads just a little.
Trailing 74-70, Jones got free of his coverage just a little, elevated, twisted and banked in a shot that would be impossible to duplicate in a game of HORSE.
The first of the triple threesome came with 2:04 remaining in the game, and was the first points of the final comeback.
Jack Clement, the leading scorer in the conference, hit the last of his 11 field goals to give OWU a 71-64 lead with 2:26 on the clock.
It was the last field goal of the game for the Battling Bishops, who came into the game tied with Wabash for second place in the league but leave a game behind with a 9-3 mark, and drop to 14-7 overall.
Jones first trey cut the deficit to four. Clements hit two free throws to make it a six-point game.
Then up stepped Sam Comer.
The junior from Danville hit one free throw with 1:23 left and then got open for a layup with :29 to go. It was 73-70.
OWU made one of two free throws, Jones hit the second triple with :15 left, to get within one.
The visitors, who had missed only two free throws in 21 attempts, missed the first and made the second. Jones made it a one-point game at 74-73 with his twisting trey.
Back to the line with 14.1 to go, the Bishops missed another, made the second and Wabash called timeout.
“Comer’s bucket earlier really set us up,” Brumett said of the final sequence. “We could get the ball back to him, which we knew they didn’t want, and that meant we had Vinny (Buccilla) on the left and Ahmoni on the right. Those are pretty good options. We know that eventually, one of those guys will make a play.”
As it was, Comer got the assist on the final Jones hoop, as he finished with 28 points. Buccilla carried the Little Giants through much of the second half, scoring 18 of his 20 after intermission.
The win, coming in front of most of the 1982 National Championship team and members of other Wabash playoff teams, including Jack Davidson and some of last year’s Final Four squad, gives the team a push going into the last two weeks of the regular season and whatever lies beyond that.
“The guys on this team are very different from the guys last year,” Brumett noted. “This year’s guys are much more diligent about the details. They have been in so many close games, but it wasn’t until those last seconds that they had that confident, winning look. They were locked in and bought that last play. These guys work so hard, they are so coachable. It is all about getting them to believe in themselves. We had five juniors in to finish the game, five guys that were part of winning the league and getting to the Final Four last year. I hope today puts them in the place where they want that pressure shot. These juniors can’t shy away from their responsibilities as leaders of the team, and they have not. They might succeed or might fail, but we win or lose with them, and are happy with their efforts.”
Jones, for his part, wants that shot, and knows it is his duty.
“I know I have to lead by example,” he said. “Doing all the things I saw last year’s seniors and captains do is now my job, and being able to do that for my team is what drives me. We’ve worked our tails off since the start of the season, and we have gotten really close as a team. Now we just have to continue winning. Never be complacent, have fun and never get down.”
The Battling Bishops were led in scoring by Clement with 35. The final score was identical to the first meeting of the season, won by OWU at home. They took advantage of a poor shooting night by the Little Giants, especially from the line and from three-point range.
Jones and company reversed that number in picking up the win Saturday and staying in the hunt for the conference title.
Wabash is at Denison Wednesday and will play the last home game of the regular season next Saturday against Hiram.
At Wittenberg and at league-leading Wooster closes out the regular season for the Little Giants on Feb. 15 and 18.
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