Wabash College had to go to their bench in Saturday’s game against Hiram and boy did those players respond. The Little Giants’ reserves outscored Hiram’s bench 36-19 in the 80-70 North Coast Athletic Conference victory which kept Wabash within one game of league leading Wooster.
During the first half the Little Giant offense just seemed uncharacteristically out of sync. The team only connected on 3-of-12 three-point attempts in the half and was just 9-21 overall from the field. Hiram led 30-27 at the half.
Little Giant Coach Kyle Brumett was concerned going into the break because his team was coming off a poor offensive showing Wednesday at Dennison.
“I was worried going into the half because we had played three halves in a row of not the type of basåketball we are used to,” Brumett said. “I thought the starters came out in the second half and did a much better job. But, when we put the bench guys in, they had great energy and played with a lot of confidence.”
Leading the way off the bench was junior Avery Beaver and freshman Randy Kelley who each scored 10 and 13 points respectively.
Kelley, who is a Sullivan High School graduate, proved why he was known for shooting in his prep career. He connected on four of five shots which included two of two from behind the arch. He also made 3-of-4 free throws.
Kelley said it felt good to play some extended minutes and to be able to help the team earn a key conference game victory.
“When we went in we said we had to get some stops and get good looks on offense,” Kelley said. “Once we got stops we got open looks and went on a run.”
Kelley said he has been putting in a lot of extra work in the gym all season and he was pleased it paid off on Saturday. He gave credit to his teammates for being ready to play.
“I go to the gym every day and shoot,” Kelley said. “Every one of those guys on the team believe in me. When I do get in a game, they are always telling me to take my shot. I could not do what I did today without those guy encouraging me.”
Wabash heated up from the field in the second quarter. The Little Giants were 7-12 (58%) from the three-point line and 13-23 (56%) overall from the field.
Vinney Bucilla, who is second on the team in scoring, found the range in the second half as well. After being led scoreless in the opening half, the junior contributed 13 points to tie Kelley for team scoring honors.
Wabash took the lead for good with 16:08 to play when Edreece Redmond hit two free throws putting the Little Giants up 37-36.
When Brumett put in the subs the lead extended to 64-49 with 6:12 to play.
Brumett said two freshmen, Josh Whack and Kelley, were keys to the game.
“The two freshmen played very well today,” Brumett said. “Sometimes you have games like this when, for whatever reason, the starters could not get it going early. They did start the second half much better. “We have a lot of good players and not all of them get a lot of minutes. The two freshmen took advantage of the playing time today”, Brumett added.
Wabash did connect on 22-25 free throws. Hiram was 13-20.
Hiram was led in scoring by Trent Jackaki’s 19 and Dushawn Hill’s 17.
Ahmani Jones was recognized before the game for scoring his 1,000 point in the loss at Denison. The junior finished with 10 points on Saturday.
With the win the Little Giants improve to 18-5 (11-3 NCAC)
With the win the Little Giants improve to 18-5 (11-3 NCAC) and will travel to NCAC foe Wittenberg on Wednesday and close out the regular season at Wooster on Saturday. Brumett said his team controls their own destiny. Two wins would wrap up another conference championship and enable the Little Giants to have home court advantage in the NCAC tournament.
“This team knows to win championships you have to win games like these coming up,” Brumett said. “Last year these guys were substitutes on the bench but they got to see from last year’s team what it takes to win big games. They will be ready for the challenge.”
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