College basketball: MC men top ONU in OT

Jacob Owens’ three-pointer with 26 seconds left in regulation forced overtime, and Brennan McKean’s three-ball in the extra five minutes put Marietta College ahead for good as the Pioneers held off the Ohio Northern Polar Bears 67-61 Wednesday night in an Ohio Athletic Conference matchup at Ban Johnson Arena.

Marietta College, playing at home for the first time in nearly a month, struggled to find its shooting touch for most of the game as the Pios hit just 37 percent from the floor (24-64), including a dismal six-of-23 from behind the arc.

“Our guys showed a lot of resilience out there tonight,” said sixth-year Pioneer head coach Jon VanderWal. “With a minute and a half to go it looked like we were going to lose, but our guys made enough plays to pull out a big win.”

The Pioneers held a 32-30 lead at halftime, despite playing much of the opening half with starters’ Tyler Hammond and J.J. Martin on the bench with a pair of fouls apiece.

A three-pointer by Lucas Pennington sent the Bears in front early in the second half, before a jumper by McKean knotted things up at 40-40 with just over 14 minutes to play.

After Branden Rushton scored on an easy layup to put the Polar Bears back up by a pair, Adam Bair connected from long range and Ohio Northern had a 45-40 lead.

The lead remained at five until the Pios got back-to-back inside buckets by big men Jason Humphrey and Garrett Stephenson to cut the lead to one at 47-46.

The Pioneers got a big game off of the bench from Matt Napier, and the junior big man’s inside score briefly gave Marietta College a 54-53 lead with under five minutes to play.

Napier scored 13 points and pulled down a game high 13 rebounds in the game, including nine in the second half.

That lead would not last long as a layup by Dominique Royal put the Bears back in front and when Rushton converted a layup and a pair of free throws, the Ohio Northern lead was five with 1:31 to play and the Pioneers undefeated conference record appeared to be in serious jeopardy.

The Pioneers chipped away at the lead as Napier grabbed a rebound of his own shot and put it back in to close the lead to 59-56.

Royal’s attempt to make it a two possession game was off the mark and Martin grabbed the rebound to set up the last minute drama.

Martin narrowly missed tying the game himself as his long jumper went in and out of the basket, but McKean came up with a big rebound and the Pioneers called a time out with 32 seconds on the clock.

VanderWal drew up a play that was designed to free Owens for a three-point attempt.

That play worked to perfection as McKean took the inbound pass and promptly found Owens open for the game tying shot.

“We’ve been running that play a lot late in the game lately,” said Owens, a Mansfield native. “Coach had the confidence in me to make it, so I shot it with confidence and fortunately it went in”

A last-second Polar Bear attempt at the win was no good forcing an additional five minutes.

Ohio Northern grabbed the lead in overtime, before McKean hit a triple of his own on an assist from senior point guard Tyler Worstell to give the Pios a 62-61 lead.

After McKean converted one-of-two free-throws to make it a two-point game, Worstell put things out of reach for good with a driving basket with just 14 ticks on the clock.

“Coach told our post guys to get their guys engaged so if I could attack the basket,” said Worstell, of his only two points in the game. “Everything just opened up and it turned into an easy basket.”

A pair of free throws by Martin drove the final dagger into the hearts of the Polar Bears and enabled the Pioneers to remain undefeated at 5-0 in conference play.

Martin and McKean tossed in 15 points apiece to pace Marietta College, while Royal led the way for Ohio Northern with 16 points.

MC improved to 9-3 on the season, while Ohio Northern drops to 6-6 and 2-3 in the OAC with the loss.

VanderWal was pleased with his team’s ability to get a win on a night where it played nowhere near its best basketball.

“Good teams find a way to win,” said VanderWal. “Owens hitting the three and McKean hitting the three and the basket by Worstell were all really big. I’m just proud of the guys, they played really hard.”

Marietta College will continue its OAC schedule Saturday afternoon when it hits the road to take on Baldwin Wallace.