Wabash Basketball

Little Giants advance to NCAC title game for first time since 2009

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Wabash had no trouble winning its 19th game in a row with a 98-74 victory over Denison on Friday  to advance to the North Coast Athletic Conference title game.

The Little Giants current win streak ties the 1982 Division III National Championship team for the most consecutive wins in program history, and the trip to the NCAC title game is the first for Wabash since 2009. Wabash will seek their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1998 and  their first NCAC tournament title since they joined the league in 1999.

Wabash will meet Wooster in the final, after the Fighting Scots defeated DePauw 75-59 in the first semifinal game at Chadwick Court on Friday.

“I think our guys are going to be really excited to play,” Wabash coach Kyle Brumett said. “They know how big the game is. You don’t ever want to look too far out ahead, but these are the kind of games you want to be playing in late February and March. It will be an NCAA tournament game tomorrow. There’s a lot to be excited about and our guys will be ready.”

The No. 16 ranked Little Giants (24-3) didn’t overlook the Big Red (13-13) on Friday, as they took the lead for good at 10-9 on a Kellen Schreiber bucket with 15:27 to play in the first half. They led 46-35 at the half and extended it to 20 points for the first time at 71-50 with 11:34 to play on a Sam Comer lay-up — leading to a third win over Denison this season.

Jack Davidson led all scorers with 32 points, including 18 in the first half. The senior hit six 3-pointers — surpassing the 300 mark for his career and 100 mark for the season for the first time in his career. With 103 3-point field goals on the season, Davidson now trails Josh Estelle (105) by just two on the all-time single season list.

After Davidson buried his first couple of treys, Denison switched to a box-and-one defense. And by result, Wabash only got stronger on offense.

“Denison played well,” Brumett said. “And give their staff credit. They had a plan to disrupt and a box-and-one isn’t something we’ve seen a whole lot of. As a coach I feel like we are more comfortable against the zone. Our two guards are so good, they’re also a little dangerous. Like they can make all the plays, but when they go zone against us, and especially when Ahmoni (Jones) is playing, just that extra shooter out there.”

Jones, who missed the Little Giants quarterfinal win over Hiram on Tuesday due to injury, recorded a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds on Friday.

Sophomores Comer and Edreece Redmond made the biggest difference — scoring 10 and 15 points respectively. Tyler Watson added 11 and Schreiber nine.

Comer’s 10 points was eight above his average, while Redmond scored 13 of his career-high 15 in the first half.

“They (Comer and Redmond) played like Wabash men tonight,” Brumett said. “They just play so hard. Even when they make mistakes, it usually turns out in their favor. They’ve both played well individually, but tonight, having them both kind of making plays out there together out there at the same time, I thought gave us a different energy level when we needed to pull away from them.”

The Little Giants were efficient on offense — connecting on 35-of-63 shots from the field and 11-of-21 3-pointers. The Big Red were 31-of-67 overall and just 7-of-25 from deep.

Wabash will meet Wooster (19-9) in the championship game at 4 p.m. Saturday. It’s the Fighting Scots 28th trip to the NCAC finale since the conference was formed in 1984-85, and they’re looking for their 18th tournament title. Wabash will play in the league championship for a third time — losing to Wooster 84-72 in 2009 and 114-91 in 2000 and Ohio Wesleyan 89-72 in 2008.

“It’s exciting, It’s the reason you want to come to this league,” said Brumett, who is in his eighth season at Wabash. “We’ve had good teams as we’ve came along, but this is what we have been building towards.”

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