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OAC quarterfinals: Marietta College men hold off scrappy Wilmington

Photo by Ron Johnston Marietta College’s Caleb Hoyng goes up for a jumper during Tuesday’s Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament quarterfinal game against Wilmington at Ban Johnson Arena. Marietta won, 83-78.

Marietta College got Wilminton University’s “A” game but prevailed anyways 83-78 Tuesday night in an OAC Tournament quarterfinal game at Ban Johnson Arena.

“Wilmington is tough as nails,” said 13th-year MC head men’s basketball coach Jon VanderWal. “But it’s the OAC Tournament. We smacked them here a week or so ago, and they weren’t dialed in and didn’t play as hard as Wilmington plays.

“But tonight, the season was on the line, and so….I told our guys in the locker room that from here on out, we are getting everybody’s best shot no matter what. And we usually do. But Wilmington came in and fought for their season tonight.”

With the victory, second-seeded Marietta — No. 2-ranked in the D3hoops.com Men’s Top 25 with a 21-5 record –will be hosting third-seeded John Carroll University (18-8) in a semi at 7 p.m. Thursday at the BanJo.

“It’s going to be another wild one,” VanderWal said.

Against Wilmington (10-16), Jason Ellis paced the Pioneers with 20 points.

“Jace came up big tonight,” VanderWal said.

Tim Kreeger added 15 points and grabbed nine rebounds, while non-starter Mason Lydic chipped in with 13 markers. Caleb Hoyng netted seven points and collected nine caroms. Christian James finished with nine points and Lukas Isaly eight.

MC had five players (Ellis, Kreeger, Hoyng, Isaly, and James) with three assists apiece.

“Our kids battled,” VanderWal said. “We never folded and stayed tough.”

Jeffery Mansfield scored a game-high 28 points to lead the Quakers. Abdul Kanu and Matt Smith added 17 and 15 markers, respectively. Payton Smith netted eight points.

“Wilmington played really hard,” VanderWal said, “and caused us to turn it over 21 times. And that’s what kept them in the game.”

Sparked by Lydic’s 11 and Ellis’ 9 first-half points, MC staked itself to a 44-38 advantage. Keeping WC close, Mansfield and Smith tallied 14 and 8 points, respectively.

After break, Marietta never trailed, but Wilmington stayed within striking distance the entire 20 minutes. And, at the 6:45 mark the Quakers knotted the score at 66-all on Kanu’s bucket. But the Pioneers regained the advantage on a pair of freebies by Ellis. Ellis then hit back-to-back 3s to give MC a five-point cushion (74-6).

WC cut it to 78-76 on a Manfield drive with just a little over a minute remaining in the contest. But down the stretch, Ellis three foul shots to keep the Quakers at bay.

“We won the rebounding battle 40-22, which means we should crush somebody,” VanderWal said. “If we win the rebounding battle by 18, we should destroy that team, but we let them stay in it, because we didn’t handle the pressure and had the 21 turnovers.”

Ron Johnston can be reached at rjohnston@mariettatimes.com

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