That’s all that needs to be said about this Wabash men’s basketball team.
The Little Giants are North Coast Athletic Conference champions for the first time in school history and have punched their ticket to the Division III Men’s Basketball Tournament with a thrilling 85-84 overtime win over Wooster Saturday afternoon at Chadwick court.
The back and forth affair between the Fighting Scots and the Little Giants had a little bit of everything as each team made runs throughout the game when it looked as if one of them might pull away.
Junior Ahmoni Jones converted an and-one attempt with 1:05 to go in regulation to put Wabash up 73-70, but Nick Everett of Wooster responded on the other end with an and-one of his own and the Little Giants had a chance to win it on the final possession but Jack Davidson’s shot was just off.
In the five-minute overtime period both teams traded one-point leads before Jack Davidson and Jones hit four consecutive free-throws to put Wabash up 81-78 with just 21 seconds left. Wooster had their chance to tie the game as Davidson fouled Hamilton Johnson on a three point attempt, but Johnson was only able to make two of three. Jones made four more free-throws in the final seconds as the Little Giants were able to hold off the Fighting Scots for the conference title.
“Ahmoni hit the biggest free-throws of his career for us today and he was perfect (7-7) and we needed everyone of them,” Wabash coach Kyle Brumett said. “Wooster is a really good basketball and everyone has a ton of respect for what they’ve done over the last 25 years is just incredible. We’ve been figuring out how to be like them for a long time now, but overall today’s game went exactly how it needed to for us. We needed to play an NCAA Tournament caliber team like them, we needed to play a close game. I’m really proud of how hard we fought and clawed all game long. I’ve got really good players and they weren’t super heroes today, but they were still very good.”
Those guards includes one of the nation’s best in Davidson who led all scorers with 28 points and grabbed a team-high 12 rebounds and dished out five assists. Tyler Watson added in 16 as did Jones. Kellen Schreiber rounded out the double-figure scoring for Wabash with 12.
“Late in that game whether it be overtime or at the end of regulation we went through so many late game situations that we haven’t had to do much of this year,” Brumett said. “Our guys were locked in there at the end and it was really fun to coach them today.”
Davidson was named the tournament MVP for his performance over the course of the three games. In those three games he scored a total of 97 points (32.3 per game) and afterwards talked about how he and his team finally accomplished something that’s been years in the making him and his teammates.
“This means the world to all of us,” he said. “This senior class has waited four years for this. The greatest things in life don’t come easy and we’ve put in a ton of work and to see it come to fruition for Coach Brum, Coach Sully and all of us, it’s just an amazing feeling.”
Brumett is used to Davidson putting up the massive scoring numbers as is most of the Wabash fan base. What stood out most for Brumett was Davidson’s ability to rebound so well against a Wooster team that has a ton of size.
“Jack and our older guys played like Wabash men tonight,” Brumett said, praising his veterans. “They (Wooster) present a lot of non-division three problems for a lot of D3 teams. They’re enormous and have two really good centers and hurt a lot of people on the glass. We out-rebounded them tonight. If you want to find one reason while this team was able to claw out a win in overtime against that team, it’s because we battled so hard on the glass.”
While talking about the first conference title in school history, Brumett thanked so many people for the support and while trying to explain what the win meant, he chose a much more visual way of describing the win.
“To see all of the hugs and smiles from everyone really shows what this meant to everyone,” he said. “The way the Coach Hendricks, Coach Petty and so many others have adopted me means the world to our family. This is part of the vision of what we had when we got here. We had a lot of guys come back to watch us tonight and that more than anything was pretty cool.”
What made the win even more special for the Little Giants is now their record stands at 24-3 and they own a 20-game winning streak which is now the longest in school history.
“20 straight is just crazy,” Davidson said of the winning streak. “We’ve had so many different ups and downs throughout the season. After losing early in the season to Oberlin we decided that we were going to use that to get better and since then we’ve really watched film and have gotten better from it. I think we’ve done that better than any team in the country. I’m just hoping we can keep this win streak going into the tournament.”
The Little Giants will open up the first round of the NCAA Division III Tournament on Friday. Wabash will officially know who they’ll face on Monday afternoon when the official bracket is released at 12:30. There’s a chance that Wabash could host their first game depending on how things turn out.
“I really do believe that going into the tournament we can beat any body,” Brumett said. “We’ve got a really good team. In my opinion we have the best guards in the country to go along with our bigs. The biggest thing for us.. they don’t know that Jack Davidson is coming or how good Tyler Watson is. We have to stay the course obviously, but it’s really hard to prepare for us if you haven’t seen us. I’m really excited to see where we’re going to go, but we would love nothing more than to get to play at home for all of our fans. Crawfordsville is so important to Wabash and the history of our athletics. I hope that if we do travel somewhere that we’ll have a good following no matter where they stick us.”
Davidson echoed Brumett’s quotes about the upcoming Tournament and noted that while the Little Giants will enjoy their success, the work still isn’t done.
“We’re unbelievably excited to play in the tournament,” Davidson said. “That’s been our goal for a long time now. It’s been since 1998 since we’ve been there so I know it means a lot to this community, this team and everyone associated with Wabash Basketball.”