|by Howard W. Hewitt • February 15, 2006|
Is there a better script than seniors sparking an enormous upset win on senior night? Wabash College upended fourth-ranked Wittenberg, 51-46, Wednesday night at Chadwick court behind tough defense, clutch shooting and its senior class.
The Little Giant seniors scored 28 of 30 second half points and 41 of 51 for the game. All six seniors played extensively and added key contributions, but none bigger than Kyle Medeiros and Kyle Coffey in the waning moments.
The win gives the Little Giants (15-9) a home NCAC game Tuesday in the opening round of the conference tournament. Earlham will be making its second visit to Chadwick Court to open tourney play. (See photo album on Wabash win!)
Medeiros (photo right) hit an off-balance 3-pointer with just 35 seconds to play to give the Little Giants the lead, 46-44, for keeps.
"We were running our offense, it was kind of a weave and Adonis (Joseph) drove it and he got my man to commit to him," Medeiros said. "I cut up and took a dribble and threw it up and it went in.
"I hit those shots all of the time in open gym."
But the senior guard wasn’t through. He grabbed a defensive rebound at the other end of the floor then hit two free throws, 48-44. Witt’s Gregg Hill scored a quick layup but Kyle Coffey hit 3-of-4 free throws in the final minutes to secure the upset over D3Hoops.com’s No. 4-rated team. The Tigers were rated No. 1 earlier this season.
Coffey’s free throws sent a large student contingent into an even more delirious state.
"I could do it. I could do it," Coffey said of his thoughts at the free throw line with the game in the balance. "That’s something I take pride in, being 6-9 and a good free throw shooter. After I hit that first one I started smiling. I knew the game was ours. I love being in that position, it’s fun.
The two Kyles could hardly stop smiling until they turned to the importance of getting the win.
"This is the best game I’ve been a part of in my entire life – ever," said an emotional Medeiros. "To go out on senior night like this and beat a Top 5 team in the nation, there is nothing else you could ask for."
The first half was mostly a defensive struggle. Wittenberg connected on just 37 percent of its shots, but Wabash could do no better than 33 percent. And after Witt pounded Wabash on the boards 24-9 in the first half, the Little Giants turned the tables for an 18-15 second half edge.
Wittenberg dominated inside with 21-1 edge on second chance points.
"It’s just pure, sheer, joy," Coffey said. "It is just awesome to be here as a senior to be in this position for me and for Kyle (Medeiros), for Caleb (Lyttle). All the seniors played well; we all went out with a bang. It’s a darn good feeling."
The senior’s good feeling carried over to their coach.
"That’s why you stick with guys so they have an opportunity to finish their senior years on a good note and a great memory," Coach Mac Petty said. "They did a good job and the key thing was we made baskets, so it worked out super."
Joseph’s 13 points led Wabash with Lyttle adding 10. Medeiros scored 9 for Wabash. Wittenberg’s twin towers Dane Borchers and Daniel Russ scored 14 and 11, respectively, for the Tigers.
--- Quick Hitters ---
Wabash has played six top-ten teams this season, including three games against the top-ranked team in the nation (Illinois Wesleyan, Wooster, and Wittenberg). The Little Giants also played Wooster when the Scots were ranked second in the nation and Hanover at number nine.
The last time Wabash defeated Wittenberg was at Chadwick Court on January 25, 2002 (Wabash 77, Wittenberg 65).
Wabash had just one free throw attempt in the second half before connecting five of its final six from the line in the last 15 seconds of the game.
Wabash set season-best marks for fewest points allowed (46) and fewest three-point baskets allowed (1).
The Little Giants earned the fourth seed in the upcoming NCAC Tournament and can finish no worse than tied for fourth in the final league standings. Wabash has opened the tournament at home in five of its six seasons in the conference. Complete tournament information will be announced later this week.