Last Saturday in a do-or-die game, the Yeomen came through with a 80-75 win against Earlham College to advance to the NCAC championships for the second consecutive season.
The win completed a season sweep of the Quakers. It was a season in which the team won two more conference games than last year to finish 3-13 in conference and 3-21 overall in Coach Satch Sullinger's first season as head coach.
Last Tuesday, the eighth-seed Yeomen got blown out of Wooster by the first-seed Fightin' Scots 107-57.
Saturday the Yeomen were helped by a miscalculation by Earlham's Jon Heathaway with the score tied up at 70. Good defense by the Yeomen stalled Heathaway from inbounding the ball at the baseline, and he tried to call a timeout even though the Quakers were out of time-outs.
The move prompted the Philips crowd to chanted "Webber, Webber," in hopes of comforting the player by reminding him that he was not alone. In the 1993 NCAA Championship game Chris Webber of Michigan cost his team the game by calling a timeout when his team had none. Alas Webber also drew a technical and handed North Carolina a victory. The chant didn't help as Heathaway burst into tears.
Junior Jabali Sawicki sank both technical free throws and then first-year Zeljko Petrovic, coming off the bench, dropped in a 15-foot floater and the Yeomen were up to stay.
"The key play down the stretch was everyone had the heart not to let them get the ball in," senior Kiese Laymon said. "That's heart. You can't coach heart. Coach did a good job with strategy. That substitution at the end as Z came wide open at the free throw line, that was a perfect call."
Sophomore John Norris led the Yeomen with 24 points on 9 of 12 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds, six offensive boards. In the first half, Norris had a put-back dunk called back because of a foul.
Norris said, "The intensity level was key. Personally, my adrenaline level was going crazy. Jabali's hustle for the ball, always diving on the floor [was key]."
In his last home game, senior Josh Ellison added 15 points, snatched 13 rebounds and denied two baskets. Ellison had 51 points and 39 rebounds in his last three games through Saturday.
"I was impressed by the way we kept our composure," Ellison said. "I was really happy we were able to pull it together rather than fall apart."
Sawicki dished eight times to go along with his five swipes and nine points. Sawicki was four of five from the line. Petrovic was five of six from the line and finished with 11 points. Overall as a team the Yeomen were 73.1 percent, 19-26 from the line.
Defense was the key for the Yeomen. After letting Kyle Leathley of Earlham burn them for 20 points in the first half with his sweet jump shot, quick penetration and fade-away posts, first-year Maurice Elrod with help from his teammates shut him down in the second half. Leathley finished with 31 points.
As a team, Earlham shot 15-29 (51.7 percent) in the first half, 6-11 behind the arc and only 10-28 (35.7 percent) 2-9 from the three-point line in the second half.
"We played well down the stretch when it mattered," Sullinger said. "I'm really happy, I'm really happy."
Tuesday, Wooster led 48-28 at half-time and ran away in the second half. The loss was expected, but not such a big loss.
Norris led Oberlin with 19 points and Elrod scored 16. In the losing effort, Elrod managed to stay on the court for 36 minutes as did Sawicki.
In his last game, Laymon was a perfect two for two from the line as was Ellison.
The Yeomen finished the season last in the conference in team defense and second to last in team offense. One team bright spot was the conference fifth spot in free throw percentage at 68.6 percent.
Individually, first-year James Knight averaged 16.5 points a game finishing the season second in conference rankings. Sawicki was second in assists with 4.9 a game and steals with 2.5 a game.
Get up: First-year Maurice Elrod defies Quaker defense with grace. The men sailed past the Quakers 80-75 last Saturday. (photo by Mike Kabakoff)
Copyright © 1998, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 126, Number 16, February 27, 1998
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