Sport Talk: Matt Kiger played his heart out
As a University of Mount Union senior, 22-year-old Matt Kiger played in his last collegiate basketball game against Marietta College at Ban Johnson Arena Saturday night.
The former Williamstown standout would’ve preferred of course capping his career in a different, winning fashion.
“I hate losing here,” said the 6-foot-5, 240-pound Kiger after the Purple Raiders (13-15) dropped an 80-76 overtime decision to the NCAA Division III tournament-bound Pioneers (20-7) in an Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament championship game.
“I love Mount Union,” Kiger continued. “But I’m happy that at least I got to play in front of people from my home area (Williamstown).”
Some of those people in attendance at Saturday’s sold out game at BJA were Kiger’s mom and dad (Diane and Doug) and older sister (Molly), a former basketball star herself at Williamstown and later Fairmont State in W.Va.
Sparked by the play of Cody Dillon (13 points), T.J. Gillespie (9), and Kiger (9), Mount Union staked itself to a 40-25 halftime advantage against second-seeded MC. The No. 4 and upset-minded Purple Raiders, who never trailed during the opening 20 minutes, were clearly the better team.
The Pioneers were eight of 21 (38.1 percent) from the floor in the first half.
“Coach (Mike Fuline) is a great coach and has preached defense from day one at practice,” Kiger said.
During second-half action, Mount Union was even able to stretch its lead to 20 points (54-34).
But then with less than 12 minutes to play in the contest, Marietta turned things around, scored 18 unanswered points, and took its first lead, 62-61, with 3:31 remaining in regulation. From there, it went into overtime, and the Purple Raiders came up short.
“We kind of lost some composure,” Fuline said. “But I’m so happy for our guys. It’s not even funny. I mean, we go to (top-seeded) Capital (Thursday night) and win, and then we come here, 36 hours later, and have a 20-point lead with 10 minutes to go. We just kind of ran out of juice.”
Kiger agreed and added, “We kind of quit moving the ball a little bit on offense, and we had few guys get in foul trouble (Kiger included).”
“It was two good teams,” he continued. “This is the OAC. Marietta went through a triple overtime (vs. Wilmington). Capital beat us twice this year, and we upset them. It’s just how it’s been all year.”
Kiger finished with a team-high 17 points and eight rebounds. Afterwards, he was named to the All-OAC Tournament team.
Now, the season is over.
“I’m going back to Alliance with my team,” said Kiger, a sports business major at Mount Union, “and go to a class on Monday.
“I’m just going to enjoy being a student now. I’m going to Boston during spring break. I’m going to work on finding a job, now.”
Ron Johnston is the Marietta Times sports editor and can be reached at 376-5441 or at firstname.lastname@example.org