No. 16 Wooster On Wrong End of Latest Instant Classic With Wittenberg as Fifth-Ranked Tigers Top Scots 78-77 in Overtime

Ari Stern
Ari Stern

SPRINGFIELD, Ohio – One of the top small college basketball rivalries delivered another instant classic as Wittenberg University's Jacob Bertemes' 3-pointer with :00.5 left in regulation tied the game at 67, and the sophomore delivered the game-winning old-fashion three-point play with :00.3 on the clock in overtime to lift the fifth-ranked Tigers over the 16th-ranked College of Wooster men's basketball team 78-77 in overtime on Saturday night at Pam Evans Smith Arena in Springfield, Ohio.

With the win, Wittenberg (23-2, 16-2 North Coast Athletic Conference) clinched the No. 1 seed for next week's NCAC Tournament. Wooster (20-5, 14-4 NCAC) will be the No. 2 seed and will host DePauw University (11-14, 7-11 NCAC) at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 20 in the quarterfinals.

Wooster led by 10 at 62-52 with 1:42 to go in regulation after a pair of free throws by senior Spencer Williams, but the Scots missed four free throws down the stretch, and couldn't get a stop defensively, which set the stage for Bertemes' game-tying trifecta.

In overtime, it was Wooster's turn to play catch-up, and senior Ari Stern came through with a jumper to pull the Scots within one at 70-69 with 2:42 remaining. After a steal by junior Eric Bulic, sophomore Danyon Hempy made a quick layup in transition to bump the Scots out in front 71-70.

Later in the extra stanza, Stern's old-fashion three-point play with :25 remaining put Wooster back on top 76-75, and the Scots extended the lead back out to two in the final five seconds, but couldn't get a second free throw to fall.

Stern, who logged his first start of the year, made his presence felt on the court from the game's onset with a tip-in on an offensive rebound for the game's first points, and at the other end of the half, the guard hustled down a lengthy offensive rebound in the corner, and that led to an eventual drive to the hoop by Hempy, whose fine touch handed Wooster a nine-point cushion (33-24) at halftime.

Stern was instrumental in the game's first significant run as well with his 3-pointer at the 15:51 mark kicking off a 12-4 stretch. Junior Blake Blair took the lead in the game on the low post, and backed his man down to push the lead back to three at 12-9. Then, Hempy's hustle defensively led to a steal, and the flashy guard laid in a quick transition bucket to pad the lead to five.

Later in the run, Williams hung in the air, and had just enough arc to drop in a floater that made it 19-11 at the 12:04 mark, and not long after, he rejected a deep 3-pointer by Mitchell Balser.

Wittenberg's Connor Seipel bullied his way inside for a layup with 4:24 left in the stanza that had the Tigers within three at 27-24, but Stern stepped up and prevented the game from closing even further with back-to-back steals, and senior Alex Baptiste found his rhythm with four late first-half points.

The Tigers caught up to the Scots with a 9-0 run to start the half, as Wooster didn't add to its score until the 14:41 mark when Hempy logged his third steal and quickly flipped the ball in to the hoop to put Wooster back in front at 35-33.

Later, sophomore Trenton Tipton banked in a runner off the glass, and sank the ensuring free through to complete the three-point play and bump the lead back out to five at 42-37 with 11:12 remaining. On the defensive end, Baptiste logged a big block with Blair saving the ball, but the Scots were unable to cash in at the offensive end.

Jordan Pumroy pulled the Tigers within two on a pair of free throws with 8:04 to go in the second half, but those would be the last points Wittenberg scored until the 3:46 mark.

During that span, Wooster exploded on a 9-0 run, with Hempy making a pair of buckets, including a 3-pointer than hit off the front of the iron, and took a friendly bounce. Defensively, Blair logged the Scots' eighth block of the game during the Tigers' scoring drought.

Landon Martin sparked Wittenberg in the final 4:00, as his 3-pointer pulled rejuvenated the Tigers, and with 1:19 to go in regulation, Bertemes pulled the Tigers back within single digits.

With the win, Wittenberg's within two games (59-57) of Wooster in the all-time series between the rivals, and the outcome marked the 47th tilt between the two winningest programs in Div. III history to be decided on by five points or fewer.

Hempy led Wooster on the night with 23 points on 8-for-19 shooting, and his remarkable run of consecutive free throws made came to an end at 31 late in the second half.

Stern scored 12 points, secured seven rebounds, and recorded three of the Scots' eight steals.

Baptiste logged an active game as well with eight rebounds, six points, and three blocks, and he's now in the top 10 all-time in program history in the latter statistical category.

Bertemes led all scorers with 26 points.