Quakers storm past Baldwin-Wallace
WC wins, 76-64, heads to OAC Tournament semifinals
February 21, 2012
R.J. Leppert scored 17 points and pulled down 10 rebounds in Wilmington's OAC Tournament win at Baldwin-Wallace. (John Swartzel photo)
BEREA — Antonio Bowman’s 23 points led four Quakers in double figures as Wilmington College stormed past Baldwin-Wallace, 76-64, in an Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament quarterfinal Tuesday night.
The No. 5 seed Quakers are now 14-12 and will play at No. 1 John Carroll 7:30 p.m. Thursday in the tournament’s semifinals. Baldwin-Wallace’s season ends at 16-10.
“Obviously, survive and advance is the mantra at the moment. I thought we were really urgent tonight. You can see that our guys want to keep playing,” Wilmington head coach K.C. Hunt said. “We kind of settled in after the first 10 minutes of the game and really, really guarded. We were there on the catch and made them take tough shots all night. That was the key to the game.”
Wilmington struggled out of the gate.
Malcolm Heard II (Wilmington) went to the bench with two early fouls and Baldwin-Wallace raced to an 18-7 lead midway through the first half.
“I thought our guys never lost faith. We knew we needed to be better offensively. We were pounding the ball way too much and not passing and attacking enough. We started making extra passes and played some of our best offensive basketball of the year,” Hunt said.
R.J. Leppert (Liberty Township/Lakota East) scored to light the fuse on a 15-0 run. When Brandon Candella (West Chester/Lakota West) ended the surge with back-to-back 3-pointers, Wilmington led, 22-18.
The Quakers, who never trailed again, stretched their advantage to 34-28 at the break. Bowman paced the Quakers in the first frame with 15 points.
“A-B is playing like a senior who doesn’t want his career to end. He is playing point guard the way the position needs to be played from a decision-making standpoint and leadership standpoint. He is willing our team to win,” Hunt said. “We also got big play from our bench guys at the 4 and 5 spot. They were big bodies. They banged and guarded and rebounded.”
Three major runs defined the second half, and Wilmington had two of the three.
The Quakers scored seven straight points to open the frame and extended the lead to 42-28 when Heard scored at 17:40.
Undaunted, the Yellow Jackets scored 16 of the next 18 points to tie the game at 44 with 12:41 to play.
“We need to do a better job of stretching out leads and keeping leads,” Hunt said. “But the guys never wavered. We just needed to get back to having quality offensive possessions. When we do that, we are pretty darned good.”
Dwight Johnson (Dayton/Jefferson) stopped the bleeding with a lay-in. The basket also got the decisive run under way as Wilmington scored nine straight and went up, 53-44, when Leppert hit from downtown at 9:10.
The Jackets got no closer than seven points down the stretch as Wilmington put the win on ice by hitting 12 of 14 free throws in the final 1:39.
Leppert finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds and two steals in what Hunt called a “stat sheet-stuffing performance.”
“R.J. was phenomenal tonight. He was one of the big differences in the game. He rebounded. He defended. He did a little bit of everything. I think we’re just seeing the very beginning of how special of a young player this guy is. He is a competitor in every sense of the word,” Hunt said.
Heard scored 13 points and pulled down five boards. Candella added 12 points and nine rebounds as Wilmington won the board battle, 37-33.
The win was Wilmington’s third over Baldwin-Wallace this season. On Thursday, the Quakers will play a John Carroll team that won both regular-season encounters with Wilmington.
“We had a 14-point lead with 10 minutes to go up there and did not get the job done. We know that we can play with them. We’re going to have to play well. We’re looking forward to the opportunity,” Hunt said.