Marietta, John Carroll meet again in OAC tourney final

Most Marietta College men’s basketball fans remember what happened the last time the Pioneers played John Carroll in the Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament championship game.

Marietta overcame a 21-point halftime deficit to defeat the Blue Streaks in 2010-11 for the program’s first ever conference tournament title. Two years later, the Pioneers played in another OAC tourney final and, again, rallied from 20 points down in the second half to defeat Mount Union in overtime. Last year, Mount got its revenge, edging the Pios 85-81 in a back and forth conference finale. Just once, MC head coach Jon VanderWal would like to be able to relax during one of these games.

He’ll get a chance at 7:30 p.m. Saturday when the Pios play host to John Carroll with the OAC Tournament trophy and an automatic bid into the national tournament on the line.

“We told our guys in the locker room (Thursday) we were in the same spot last year and didn’t get it done,” VanderWal said. “We’ve got to get it done this year.”

Marietta (25-2) and JCU (24-3) matched up in a pair of close contests during the regular season – John Carroll beat MC, 82-78, at home in December before Marietta got revenge, 86-81, earlier this month at Ban Johnson Arena.

Both teams feature balanced attacks offensively. John Carroll, ranked 12th nationally, has eight players averaging at least 8.4 points per game. Blue Streaks head coach Mike Moran is known for subbing often, keeping his players fresh.

David Linane, who scored 19 in JCU’s semifinal win over Mount Union Thursday, is the team’s top scorer with 15 per game.

The Pioneers limited him to five points in the last meeting. Post players Simon Kucharewicz and Doug Caputo average 11.4 and 10.2 points per game, respectively.

The Pioneers, ranked fourth in Division III, have plenty of depth, too. A.J. Edwards leads the way in scoring (17.3 per game) and rebounding (8.6 per game) with Luis Garcia adding 14.3 points per contest. Dillon Young and Eddy Grenert are averaging 12.1 and 10.7 points per game, respectively. Grenert is also grabbing six boards a game.

This OAC Tournament championship could be decided in the paint. Caputo and Kucharewicz check in at 6-foot-8 and 6-7, respectively, for the Blue Streaks. With Edwards and Grenert, the Pioneers match up well down low.