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Quakers to battle Capital for OAC title, NCAA berth

Final tip off 7:30 p.m. Saturday

February 24, 2012

Klarke Ransome (at right) and the Quakers will face Capital with an OAC title and NCAA Tournament berth on the line.

Klarke Ransome (at right) and the Quakers will face Capital with an OAC title and NCAA Tournament berth on the line.

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The Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament title and a berth in the NCAA Championship will be on the line when Wilmington College travels to Bexley to face Capital University at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

The game will be Web cast on Wilmington College Sports Network. Coverage will begin at 7:15 p.m.

The No. 5 seed Quakers (15-12) proved they are road warriors — not road-weary — with a 79-74 win at No. 1 John Carroll Thursday night. The win was Wilmington’s third in the last four days, with two road victories coming over the last three days. Capital (17-9) held off No. 6 Ohio Northern, 66-61, in Thursday’s other semifinal.

Wilmington’s tournament surge has been fueled by the point guard play of Antonio Bowman and the power of forward Malcolm Heard II. Heard (Wilmington) scored career-high 34 points in Wilmington’s win at John Carroll while Bowman (Columbus/Whetstone) scored 18. Bowman has averaged 21.6 points over the last five games. The pair makes Wilmington the only OAC team with two 15-point-per-game scorers.

Freshman R.J. Leppert (Liberty Township/Lakota East) has emerged as a clear-cut rising star. Leppert scored six points and pulled down 11 boards against John Carroll, his second straight double-digit rebound performance.

Wilmington’s bench, led by Klarke Ransome (Richwood/North Union), has played a key role in the Quakers’ tournament run. Ransome scored nine points against John Carroll.

The Quakers’ pressure defense has proven unsettling for three straight opponents. Wilmington ranks second in the OAC with 9.3 steals and 3.1 blocked shots per game. Four Quakers — Leppert, Brandon Candella (West Chester/Lakota West) and Bowman — are among the conference’s top-eight steals leaders.

Capital got 41 combined points from Spencer Niekamp and Kelly Winter in its win over Ohio Northern. That has been a familiar combination this season as Niekamp and Winter lead Capital’s offensive attack with 14.5 and 13.3 points per game, respectively. Junior forward Michael Sommer is the third Crusader scoring in double figures at 11.9 per game.

Capital’s secret to success this season is no secret — the Crusaders have shot the ball better than any other OAC team. Capital shot 47.3 percent from the field, 37.9 percent from 3-point country and 75.5 percent from the free throw line to lead the conference.

The Crusaders also take care of the ball. They committed just seven turnovers in their win over Ohio Northern Thursday and average 13.4 turnovers per game.

The Crusaders have been tough to beat at home, with their only home OAC setback coming to Wilmington, a 63-57 final back on Dec. 8, 2011.

Wilmington finished the regular-season sweep of Capital with a 55-53 win on Jan. 25. Leppert’s 3-pointer with 19 seconds to play proved to be the game-winning shot.