Wabash 91, Hiram 71Tuesday, February 21, 2023
It’s no secret that the Little Giants struggled in the final weeks of the regular season, going 1-3 in their last four games. But the postseason doesn’t hold a grudge. Wabash, seeded second, started off the NCAC tournament by kicking the door closed on Hiram’s season. On Tuesday, February 21, the Little Giants beat the No. 7 seed Terriers 91-71 to advance to the tournament semifinal.
The Little Giants were the clear favorites coming into the game, having just beaten Hiram on the same Chadwick Court ten days earlier. With their last loss at home being in November, the team was confident in their ability to defend home court.
A three by Gavin Schippert ’26 in their first possession gave the team a lead they would hold for the rest of the contest. Just six minutes into the game, the Little Giants held a 17-point lead and, at half- time, led 45-36. Ahead by double digits for the entire second half, the team extended the lead to 91-71 before the final buzzer.
“It felt great to contribute on offense,” said Schippert. “After I made the first one, it really helped my confidence. Being a freshman, I have had to find spots where I can contribute. I think my rebounding and defense benefits the team. Last night it was my scoring.”
The relative ease with which Wabash won allowed many of the starters to play fewer minutes and get some rest. But that didn’t disturb the team’s flow, and the reserves were able to get extra court time to build up their confidence and prepare for later rounds.
Hiram only had two scorers in double digits, compared to the four Little Giants with more than 10 points. On the starting five, Schippert led Wabash in scoring for a career high 19 points. Ahmoni Jones ’24, currently the third leading scorer in the conference, had 14 points and nine rebounds. Avery Beaver ’24 led the bench in scoring with 16 points, seven of those coming from the line.
“We all feel really good heading into the weekend playing against the rival. Then we will get revenge on whoever we play after that,” said Beaver. “I hope to continue to be a good teammate and do whatever the team needs for us to win.”
On the same night, the No. 6 seed DePauw upset the No. 3 seed Ohio Wesleyan. With the NCAC’s leading scorer Jack Clement back home for good, the Little Giants will have one less problem to deal with. Nevertheless, if Wabash wants to progress to the final, they will have to get past the Dannies. And with Elijah Hales, the second-leading scorer in the NCAC, on the DePauw roster, the Little Giants will once again need to find a way to contain the Tiger offense.
On the other side of the bracket, the top seeded Wooster quietly put away the No. 8 seed Oberlin. Denison, the No. 4 seed who managed to defeat both Wabash and Wooster in the final weeks of the regular season, snuck out a win against Wittenberg.
Hungry for a repeat title, the Little Giants have a long road ahead. From now on the team will play on the road, where they’ve struggled all season. If they manage to finish off DePauw, they’ll have to face either Wooster or Denison. Both of those teams defeated Wabash in the final two weeks of the regular season.
However, there’s still plenty of room for hope. So far, the tournament has gone as well as any Wabash fan could have hoped. Coming into the tournament, Wooster, Ohio Wesleyan and Denison were the three biggest threats to Wabash. With OWU gone, the Little Giants’ chances of winning have increased significantly.
Make no mistake, DePauw will not go down easily. But in their last matchup, Wabash won with a comfortable 10-point lead, as opposed to the one point lead that Wabash snuck past OWU.
“We’re trying to go into the game with the mindset that, regardless of who we play, we’re not going to underestimate anybody,” said Jones. “We have to be ready to bring our own energy and finish the playoffs early so that we can finish the game off down the stretch. We’re a family and we’re going to play for each other through it all.”
Wabash faces DePauw at Wooster on Friday, February 24. The game begins at 5:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on the Wooster video network.