The 2018 North Coast men’s basketball season came to a close on Saturday (3/3) night with Wittenberg (27-3) and Wooster (22-7) both dropping hard-fought contests in the second round of the NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball Tournament. Despite a furious second-half comeback attempt, Wittenberg wasn’t able to overcome a 34-19 halftime deficit as the Tigers dropped a 68-60 decision against Wisconsin-Oshkosh (22-7) Springfield, while Wooster (22-7) had an uncharacteristic 17 turnovers in a 91-85 loss against John Carroll (25-5) in University Heights, Ohio.
Wittenberg cruised into the second round with a 91-61 victory over Misericordia on Friday night, while Wooster gutted out a 72-68 win over Illinois Wesleyan in the first round.
For Wittenberg, sophomore Jacob Bertemes (Springfield, OH/Southeastern) led the Tigers in the opening-round victory with 17 points, six rebounds, four assists and one steal, while senior Chad Roy (Toledo, OH/Holland Springfield) led the squad in his final collegiate game on Saturday night with 13 points. For the Fighting Scots, sophomore Danyon Hempy (Waldo, OH/River Valley) led the way in the victory over IWU with 20 points, while junior guard Reece Dupler (Newark, OH/Lakewood) paced the team with 24 points on 10-of-15 shooting from the field in the loss against JCU.
While Wittenberg’s historic season came to an abrupt end in the NCAA Tournament, the Tigers put the program back on the map throughout the 2017-18 campaign. After being selected to finish third in the NCAC Men’s Basketball Preseason Coaches’ Poll, the Tigers opened the season on a remarkable 22-game winning streak and would go on to post their first NCAC regular season title since 2012 with a 16-2 mark against conference foes. The Tigers kept their momentum going into the NCAC Tournament, ultimately being crowned tournament champions for the first time since the 2005-06 season with an 82-70 victory over Ohio Wesleyan in the title game in Springfield. With their victory in the title game, the Tigers ensured themselves a spot in the NCAA Div. III Tournament for the 28th time in history, which is now tied with Scranton for the most appearances in the Div. III postseason tournament.
Wooster’s tradition-rich men’s basketball program proved yet again in 2017-18 why they are among the elite Div. III programs in the country. This season marked the 21st time in the last 22 years that the Fighting Scots have seen their season come to a close in March as part of the NCAA Tournament. In fact, Wooster currently holds the Div. III record for consecutive appearances in the NCAA tournament as this year marked their 16th-straight showing on the national bracket. The Scots, who finished the regular season in second place in the NCAC with a 14-4 record during the conference slate, won their 20th game of the season on February 14th with an 81-79 victory over Kenyon, marking the 22nd year in a row that the Scots have won 20 or more games. They are now tied with Duke for the second-longest active streak of 20-plus win seasons among all NCAA men’s basketball programs, while Kansas sits atop the list with 29-consecutive 20-win seasons.