NCAA D3 Tournament

Little Giants season ends in Final Four loss to Elmhust

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Fort Wayne – All good things must come to an end. It just wasn’t the ending  Wabash Basketball was expecting Friday night as the took on Elmhurst at the Allen War Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne with a spot in the NCAA Division III National Championship on the line. The Bluejays shot 32-70 (46%) while the Little Giants could muster just 23-66 (35%) in what was a 90-68 loss as Wabash saw their historic season come to an end.

Wabash seemed to never really be able to settle into the game as Elmhurst led from the opening tip. A big turning point in the game came with 4:32 left in the first half as senior forward Kellen Schreiber who had 10 of the Little Giants 24 received a flagrant two foul and was disqualified from the game.

“They (Elmhurst) guarded us as well as we’ve been guarded all season long,” Wabash coach Kyle Brumett said after the season ending loss. “It’s a really tough thing to swallow knowing I won’t get to coach these guys (pointing to Jack Davidson and Tyler Watson) again.”

The loss sees the historic season for the Little Giants end with a record of 28-4. Their historic season includes their first North Coast Athletic Conference title in school history, a program record 24 straight wins, and their first trip back to the NCAA Tournament since 1982.

The loss also sees the careers of Davidson and Watson, along with Jack Hegwood come to and end as well. Davidson and Watson have been the building blocks for what Wabash accomplished this season and will go down as two of the most important Little Giants to ever come through the program.

“One of our guys in the locker room told the team afterward how both of these guys have changed his life,” Brumett said. “They’ve changed my life and I’m fortunate to be a part of this group who has been very unique. We have taken our lumps in the past and stuck together through it all. This year was about as picture perfect as you could have from a coaching standpoint. Tonight won’t define this team, it will disappoint this team, but it won’t define it and these two guys are as good as any two in the country.”

Davidson ends his Wabash career as their all-time leading scorer with 2,464 career points. He ended the game leading the Little Giants with 21 in their final game. Watson added 14, Ahmoni Jones scored 12 and Schreiber ended with 10.

Jake Rhode led all scorers with 32 points in the game for the BlueJays. Dominic Genco chipped in 20 and Lavon Thomas scored 14. Elmhurst also forced Wabash into 14 turnovers in the game. The Little Giants shooting woes carried over to the free-throw line where they were just 16-26.

“I’m just super grateful for the career that I’ve had,” Davidson said. “I have life-long friendships with every single guy in that locker room and I just love them to death.”

Despite the season ending loss, the Wabash faithful made their presence felt at the Allen War Memorial Coliseum as they have all season long. It was a heavy Little Giant crowd and Brumett made sure he thanked them not only for their support in the game, but all season.

“We would have loved to play better for everyone that came out, but that’s the special thing about Wabash is that they’ll support you no matter what,” he said. “I can remember losing at home to Oberlin early in the year and walking in front of our students and telling them that we will be better. We came out after that and won 24 in a row. Wabash is a special place and I’m so glad that so many people got to see us. For me it’s easy to remember how many people followed us to Atlanta and to Bloomington and now here. Who these guys are is really what makes Crawfordsville, Wabash and our community special.”

This season has set the tone for the future of the Little Giants and their program moving forward. Davidson and Watson both talked ab out what they will leave behind and what they hope the next generation of Little Giants can continue to build off of.

“It’s crazy to think about all of the hours of hard work that we’ve put in and then to have this result tonight,” Watson said. “In the moment it doesn’t seem fair but I want future players to know is just that you have to give it your all and invest everything into it. If you do that you won’t regret the lessons you learn from your coaches, from your brothers on the court. You can’t lose if you do that and the scoreboard won’t define us.”

Davidson while he is the greatest player to ever come through the Little Giant program, said he’ll remember the memories off the court more than anything.

“I cherished every moment with this team,” he said. “The road trips, hanging out with the guys in our room, having dinner at Coach Brum’s house, it all goes by so fast. Right now it sucks, but this has been the best five years of my life. “

The foundation has been set for the Little Giants. While losing Davidson, Watson, and Schreiber will be hard to replace, the Little Giants have plenty of depth behind them in Edreece Redmond, Vinny Bucilla, and Jones will lead the way next season as a senior. Wabash has the talent once again to have another very successful 2022-23 season.

“All of our returning guys have seen how hard these guys have worked,” Brumett said. “Multiple teams we’ve played in this tournament could’ve been here, but I’m going to hold onto the fact that these two guys have been the hardest working guys I’ve ever coached.  It’s hard to think about coaching without these guys, but we will, it’s what we do. Our young guys thanked these guys for their work. We’ll be different next year, but we’ll find a way to stay good.”

This Wabash team will go down in history as arguably the best to ever do it. Yes the 1982 team won the National Championship, however this Little Giant team was special and there’s no debating that.

Thank you Wabash for an incredible, historic, and memorable season. One Crawfordsville, Montgomery County, the Wabash community won’t soon forget.

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