OSWEGO, N.Y. – The College of Wooster's thrilling run in the NCAA Div. III Men's Basketball Championship came to an end Saturday night, as No. 4 ranked Christopher Newport University built a first-half lead and weathered a strong comeback attempt by the Fighting Scots during the second for an 81-61 triumph in a sectional championship game, which took place at the State University of New York at Oswego.
While it was a tough ending, Wooster (24-8) can still consider the season a major success, as the Scots won a share of the North Coast Athletic Conference championship, extended their Div. III-best mark of 20-win seasons to 20, and set another Div. III record with a 14th-straight NCAA Tournament appearance, winning three rounds to advance to the national quarterfinals for the fifth time in school history.
The two teams traded buckets for much of the opening nine minutes, then Christopher Newport (30-1) blitzed the Scots for the rest of the first half, turning a 13-10 lead into a 36-19 halftime cushion. It had been a 23-4 stretch until Wooster gained a little momentum late, as Simon Texidor hit a corner 3-pointer and Mitch Balser a pull-up jumper in the lane.
The Scots built on that run during the early stages of the second half. A quick seven-point spurt, capped by a three-point play from Spencer Williams, brought them within 39-28, and a few minutes later, another Williams basket made it a 10-point game (41-31).
The Captains responded, though, putting together a quick 7-0 run themselves, with a deep 3-pointer by Aaron McFarland pushing the margin to 48-31.
|Reece Dupler, who capped his freshman season with an eight-point, four-rebound outing, attempts a drive to the basket during first-half action of the sectional championship game. (photo courtesy of C. Perkins Photography)|
The back-and-forth second half continued when Wooster rallied for nine unanswered points via two Williams' free throws, a Josh Kipfer lay-up, two Balser free throws, and another big Texidor 3-pointer, with the latter making it 49-42.
The Scots trimmed the deficit a little more, as Alex Baptiste made it a two-possession game (54-48) with about seven minutes to play when his baseline jumper dropped in, however, that would be as close as they would get. Christopher Newport followed with a 9-1 run to extend the lead to 63-49.
The margin remained in double-digits for the last five minutes, as the Captains clinched their first trip to the national semifinals.
Wooster was hurt by an uncharacteristic shooting night, as it finished with its second-lowest field-goal rate of the season at .370 (20-of-54), and maybe even more noticeable was the struggles at the free throw line, where it went 17-of-27 (.630). That included missing five of the first seven.
Williams tossed in 19 points to lead the Scots.
Among Christopher Newport's leaders were Marcus Carter with 22 points and Tim Daly with 20 points and 11 rebounds.