At least we still have a chance. Thanks to Wooster’s loss against Denison on Wednesday, February 15, the Little Giants basketball team can still clinch a share of the NCAC regular season championship. But to do so, Wabash must beat Wooster on Saturday, February 18.
Sitting at 18-6 (11-4 NCAC), one game behind the conference leaders Wooster at 18-5 (12-3 NCAC), the Little Giants’ remarkably successful season will hinge on the away contest at the perennial powerhouse. Importantly, the outcome of the game will also be integral in deciding who will host the NCAC postseason tournament’s semifinals and championship game, with the winner claiming the first overall seed in next week’s tournament.
How did we get here? Well, going into Wednesday night, Wooster held a one game advantage in NCAC play while being a half-game better in the overall season. Consequently, Wooster and Wabash both had a lot to play for with Saturday’s game looming on the horizon.
However, Wooster and Wabash ultimately both suffered difficult road losses to keep the distance between the competing colleges at one game. In Wooster’s matchup against The Big Red, Denison utilized a crucial 12-0 run down the stretch to pull away from the league leaders after a close first 30 minutes. After establishing a slight lead, the Denison home crowd energized their team to hold on, winning 78-70.
Wooster’s slip gave Wabash the opportunity to pull even in the standings, setting up a tie for first place in NCAC standings. Ultimately, however, Wooster’s loss meant that, regardless of Wabash’s result against Wittenburg in the penultimate game of the regular season, Wabash would still be alive in their hunt to repeat as the regular-season champions.
Simultaneous with Wooster’s contest at Denison, Wabash tipped off against Wittenberg in Springfield, Ohio. In what would ultimately be the slowest paced and lowest scoring game of the season, the Little Giants were unable to produce significant and consistent offense against the stringent Wittenberg defense.
In the first half, Wabash struggled to hit their shots on offense, finding it really hard to enter into a rhythm until the last five minutes of the first period. Luckily for the Little Giants, they were able to stifle Wittenberg on its offensive possessions, at one point keeping the home team from scoring for a lengthy period. After a smooth Edreece Redmond ’24 layup in the last minute of the first half, Wabash went into the locker room tied with Wittenberg 23-23.
The second half continued to be a defensive contest, with the two teams dueling for the lead as the clock dwindled. With the Little Giants down by two points in the final minutes of the game, freshman Randy Kelley ’26 cooly elevated over his defender to tie the game at 51-51. After a hard-fought 40 minutes, Wittenberg and Wabash headed to overtime.
In the overtime period, Wabash continued to struggle offensively and never led. While a Redmond three brought the Little Giants to within one, at 55-54, a controversial foul call on Champ McCorkle ’24 prevented Wabash from taking the lead in the final minute of overtime.
“The refs were talking after the call and apologized for making the wrong call,” said McCorkle. “Wittenberg doesn’t have a monitor so they weren’t able to go back and reverse it, but it is what it is.”
Due to the slow-paced nature of the game, Wabash only had three players achieve double-digit totals by the end of the game. Vinny Buccilla ’25 continued to lead the offensive effort with 12 points, while fellow starter Sam Comer ’24 contributed 10 of his own points. Significantly, Kelley followed up his previous impressive performances with 10 points off the bench, including several crucial plays down the stretch of regulation.
“There is zero chance that we go down to Wooster on Saturday and don’t come back as conference champions, and I couldn’t be more excited to go win it with these guys.”– Champ McCorkle ’25
Nevertheless, the overall offensive numbers were bleak. Wittenberg effectively disrupted Wabash’s flow in transition and held the Little Giants to a poor 35% from the field. But despite the loss, the Wabash players remained optimistic about the chances at Wooster on Saturday, as well as their play heading into the postseason tournament.
“It feels great being able to come in and help the team out the past couple weeks,” said Kelley. “I have a bunch of great teammates and we enjoy playing together. I like our chances Saturday against Wooster. I believe we will learn from tonight and get ready for another tough conference road game.”
Looking forward to Saturday, Wabash will be hoping to replicate their previous success against Wooster, when they triumphed at Chadwick Court 83-68 on January 7. In that game, Wooster struggled to keep up with the explosive Wabash offensive, which pulled away from the Terriers with an astonishing 53 points in the second half.
Throughout that earlier contest, the Little Giants neared 70% shooting from the field with five players in double figures, led by 18 points from Avery Beaver ’24. Additionally, Wabash dominated on the boards and limited Wooster to relatively low scoring halves. While a share of the conference championship will still be up for grabs, the arguably more important repercussion of Saturday’s showdown will be the one-seed and home field advantage at the NCAC tournament.
“We didn’t have to lose this one tonight, but I have supreme confidence we will make changes and put ourselves in the right mindset to go home with the league title,” said McCorkle. “There is zero chance that we go down to Wooster on Saturday and don’t come back as conference champions, and I couldn’t be more excited to go win it with these guys.”