College men’s basketball: Marietta College men drop 70-67 overtime decision to Cap

The recent run of last second magic ran out on the Marietta College Pioneers Wednesday night as the Capital University Crusaders pulled off a 70-67, overtime victory in front of a jam-packed crowd at Ban Johnson Arena.

Michael Sommer’s basket with 19 seconds remaining in overtime proved to be the game winner for Capital, who broke a first place tie with the Pioneers in the Ohio Athletic Conference.

“They (Capital) made a great play there at the end and got us on a back door play,” said Pioneer head coach Jon VanderWal. “We just came up a couple of plays too short.”

Just as the first match up between the top two teams in the OAC came down to the final shot in Bexley with the Pio’s pulling out a 69-68 victory on Jacob Owens’ buzzer beater, Wednesday’s rematch was a tight battle all night long with neither team ever possessing a lead of more than two possessions.

J.J Martin opened the game for Marietta College with a triple but a lay-up by Tim Congrove and a long three from Spencer Niekamp gave Capital a 5-3 lead.

The lead would change hands five times in the opening period alone.

Garrett Stephenson’s three-point play broke a 15-15 tie and junior point guard Tyler Hammond followed with a driving layup to give the Pioneers what would prove to be their biggest lead of the night at 20-15.

A 10-0 Crusader run turned that five-point deficit into a five point lead at 25-20 with less than five minutes to play in the opening half.

Hammond’s jumper with a minute to play trimmed the lead to four and his free throw with just six seconds to play closed the lead to 32-29 at the intermission.

Hammond continued his hot streak in the early minutes of the second half as the Cleveland native hit back-to-back jumpers to push Marietta College back in front by a point at 33-32.

Capital finally put some daylight between themselves and the Pios when Mitch Westerheide’s jumper made it a 49-44 game with 7:09 to play but MC got a jumper by freshman A.J. Ireland and a triple from Martin to close to within two at 51-49.

With Matt Napier out with an injury, VanderWal turned to Ireland and sophomore Andy Stegman and the two delivered with some outstanding minutes both offensively and defensively.

“They both gave us some great minutes tonight,” said VanderWal of Stegman and Ireland, who scored four and seven points respectively, “A.J. has gotten better as the year’s progressed and he gave us a big lift.”

A pair of free throws by Sommer pushed the Crusader lead back to four at 57-53, but Hammond answered from long range to trim the lead to a single point with 2:22 to play.

A couple of outstanding defensive plays by Martin kept the lead at one until Tim Congrove connected on a pair of free throws to make it 59-56 with 28 seconds to play in regulation.

Hammond wasted little time evening things up as his left-handed drive to the hoop drew a foul for an old fashioned three-point play and tied the game at 59-59.

Capital never managed to get off a final shot as Hammond came up with a huge steal to force overtime for the second straight game.

“Hammond made some great plays down the stretch,” said VanderWal, “He was a leader out there for us and did a great job tonight.”

After Hammond forced another Capital turnover to start the extra five minutes, Martin’s inside bucket gave the Pioneers a 61-59 lead.

Once again Capital came charging right back as Niekamp tied the score and Ben Jackson put them back in front by three after connecting on 3-of-4 free throw attempts.

Niekamp fouled out of the game seconds later and Marietta College jumped right back in front on another Hammond field goal and a huge three-point play by Martin.

Sommer hit a huge three- pointer from the right wing to put Capital back in front, and Hammond’s free throw knotted the score at 67-67, setting up the winning Capital score.

The Crusaders ran the clock down to 20 seconds before Congrove found a cutting Sommer wide open under the basket for what proved to be the game winner.

The Pioneers’ hopes to send the game to double overtime were dashed when they turned the ball back over to Capital without getting off a shot.

After A.J Dixon missed the second half of a one-in-one the Pioneers had one last chance but Tyler Worstell’s attempt at a game tying three-pointer was blocked away by Capital to end the game.

Sommer led four Capital players in double figures with 18, while Niekamp added 15 and Jackson and Congrove contributed 12 and 11 points, respectively.

Hammond’s 18 paced the Pioneers while Martin finished with 17 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.

Both teams now have identical 16-6 records on the season, but Capital holds the one-game conference lead with just three games to play.

“It was a great college basketball game between two evenly matched teams,” said VanderWal, whose Pioneers will host Baldwin Wallace Saturday afternoon. “Unfortunately we came out on the wrong end today.”