By Graham Lucas
Saturday night, men’s basketball won their first North Coast Athletic Conference Tournament crown since 2008 when they defeated top-seeded Wooster 76-66 at Timken Gymnasium in front of nearly 3,000 spectators.
The Battling Bishops 19-5 regular season record earned them the second seed in the NCAC tournament. They first defeated Denison in the quarter-final match 77-56, and then went on to beat Kenyon in a hard fought 77-64 victory in the semi-final round.
Senior forward Marshall Morris led the team with 19 points against the Wooster Fighting Scots.
He buried 4 of 5 from beyond the arc, something he said his own teammates probably didn’t expect.
“I don’t think Wooster was ready for that,” Morris said. “But I don’t think many of our players expected it either. It’s just one of those things that we practice every day and I felt confident and comfortable on Saturday. It just so happened that I had a couple big opportunities in the game.”
Senior guard Andy Winters took home the Al Van Wie trophy as the tourney’s most valuable player after he recorded 17 points, six assists, seven rebounds and four steals in the championship game. Winters said he could never take credit by himself.
“I am very lucky to be playing with this group of guys,” he said. “The eight seniors we have provide tremendous leadership and guidance for the rest of the team. In basketball, one man can only do so much for the team. Most of the credit goes to my teammates.”
The Bishops also earned their first win against Wooster this season after losing to them in both regular season contests. Morris said their ability to conquer Wooster has been a lengthy process.
“As far as growth, it has been a four-year process, not just the two losses this year,” Morris said. “Our seniors are now 1-11 against them, which isn’t impressive, but that one win is worth it to our group of seniors. The two losses prior this year were mainly just indicators that we could accomplish what we were trying to do, we just needed to go out and do it.”
In the NCAC podcast interview, Head Coach Mike Dewitt said the team has kept the same motto all year: to “take it one game at a time.”
Dewitt said they try not to look ahead or behind in the schedule, but to be completely focused on the next mission at hand.
Along with the NCAC tournament crown, the Battling Bishops earned the NCAC’s automatic qualifier into the Division III NCAA tournament.
In their next game, they will square off against Saint Vincent College on Saturday, March 2 at 7 p.m. in the first round of the NCAA tournament in the Branch Rickey Arena. Morris said the team is peaking at the perfect time.
“We’re playing really well together, and the chemistry is awesome,” Morris said. “For us, it isn’t a matter of changing anything up or doing anything different. It’s simply a matter of coming prepared to play at our potential every game of the tournament and enjoying the opportunity that we have.”