DELAWARE, Ohio – Senior Dan Fanelly sank two free throws with :09.2 remaining to extend The College of Wooster's lead to two possessions, as the Fighting Scots won their league-leading 16th North Coast Athletic Conference Tournament, earned the NCAC's automatic bid to the program's NCAA Div. III record 15-straight tournament, and picked up head coach Steve Moore's 800th career win during a 76-72 win over Ohio Wesleyan University at Branch Rickey Arena on Saturday afternoon.
Wooster, will find out who and where it will play in the first round of the NCAA Tournament when selections are released at 12:30 p.m. on Monday.
|Senior Dan Fanelly came away with the 2017 Al Van Wie Award as the tournament's Most Valuable Player.|
"It's a good feeling, said Moore, when commenting on Wooster have the NCAC's automatic berth for the first time since 2014. "Going in to this week, it looked like we had to win the tournament to get it done to get in the national tournament, and our guys got it done."
Notable, with the win, Moore is the 18th NCAA men's coach to reach the 800-win milestone, and the fifth to do so this season.
"I've had such great fortune to be blessed with so many good players and great coaches helping me over these years," commented Moore.
The Scots pulled together late as the Bishops (21-7) trailed by 21 with 11:57 remaining when all-tournament team honoree Spencer Williams knocked down a pair of free throws to make it 58-37. From there, Ohio Wesleyan nearly rallied all of the way back and pulled within two at 74-72 with :47 remaining when Ben Simpson made a layup after a crucial steal in the Scots' backcourt.
Wooster didn't come away with points on its next trip down the floor, and Simpson nearly put Ohio Wesleyan ahead with :13 remaining, but his shot rimmed out with Fanelly securing the rebounding and making both of the ensuing free throws.
Fanelly, the Al Van Wie Most Valuable Player honoree, scored a season-high 34 points, and bettered his own Wooster NCAC Tournament record for most points scored that he set at 32 during Friday night's semifinal win over Denison University. Additionally, Fanelly became the sixth different player in Wooster's history to surpass 500 points in a single season, and he moved past Xavier Brown for sixth on the program's all-time scoring list.
Wooster's first big spurt of the game came at the 13:38 mark in the opening half when Williams pumped in a layup to fuel a 7-0 run that ended with Wooster holding a 20-12 lead. Junior Alex Baptiste factored in heavily at both ends of the floor with a jumper and a block.
Then, Wooster opened a double-digit lead for the first time in the contest at the 6:40 mark when sophomore Mitch Balser connected with classmate Reece Dupler on a near full-court pass for a fast-break layup, and then Dupler registered a tip-in on the Scots' next trip down the court.
In the second half, Wooster turned in an 8-0 run just under 4:30 into the frame with Fanelly leading the way with two jumpers prior to a 3-pointer by Balser. That stretch pushed Wooster's lead to 20 at 54-34 before the Scots extended their edge to a game-high 21 points on Williams' free throws.
Ohio Wesleyan pulled within single digits for the first time down the stretch with 5:52 remaining when Seth Clark knocked down a pair of free throws, but Fanelly quickly did likewise on the other end of the floor to up Wooster's lead to 11.
Next, Ohio Wesleyan caught fire and knocked down four 3-pointers to make things interesting before Simpson pulled the Bishops within one possession.
Williams and Dupler joined Fanelly in double figures with 18 and 14 points respectively, while Fanelly finished one rebound shy of his first double-double of the season to pair with four blocks.
"It was a real fine team effort," commented Moore. "Dan Fanelly had a good scoring game. There's no doubt about it that he deserved the MVP award. All of the guys contributed in a lot of different ways, offensively and defensively."
Simpson led Ohio Wesleyan with 18 points and 17 rebounds while Nate Axelrod strung together 12 points and five assists despite an atypical 3-for-17 shooting day.
For the game Wooster held Ohio Wesleyan to 34.8 percent (24-for-69) shooting, including a 9-for-32 mark from beyond the arc. On the flip side, the Scots connected on 43.9 percent of their field goals at 25-for-57.
Axelrod, Simpson, Denison's Jett Speelman, and Wittenberg University's Cody Phillipi joined Fanelly and Williams on the all-tournament team.