By | Ben Payner
Senior day was a great success as the Lords basketball team avenged an earlier loss to Wabash College with a 75-64 win on Saturday, Feb. 22. Unfortunately, the Lords’ season came to an end in the first round of the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) tournament with a 67-78 loss to Ohio Wesleyan University (OWU) on Tuesday, Feb. 25.
Against Wabash, the four seniors, Co-Captain Brian Lebowitz, Co-Captain Julian Pavlin, Co-Captain Ikenna Nwadibia and Cameron Bell, started and made meaningful contributions.
Lebowitz turned in his best game of the season, tying his career high in points with 28 on 10-19 shooting, and setting a new career high with 15 rebounds. Lebowitz also tied a career high with five blocks. His fifth block of the game was significant because it moved him into first all-time on Kenyon’s blocked shots list with 162.
Pavlin and Nwadibia each scored 11 points on an efficiently combined 7-13 effort from the field. Nwadibia also chipped in seven boards and four assists.
As for Bell, the start was his first of the season, and in his season high 17 minutes of work he had two points and four rebounds while playing some strong defense against Wabash’s front line.
“It’s been a great ride with these three guys,” Pavlin said.
The starting lineup wasn’t just noteworthy for the four seniors starting their last home game together. Cooper Handelsman ’15 got his first start of the year and turned in a gem. In 33 minutes of play, Handelsman was perfect, going 5-5 from the field and 2-2 from the line for 12 points. He also pulled down six rebounds and dished out four assists. Over his last two games, Handelsman has scored 24 points on 10-10 shooting while going 4-5 from the free throw line.
Bell returned to his usual role on the bench while Handelsman got the starting nod against OWU in the opening round of the NCAC tournament. Unfortunately, the Lords could not overcome a cold-shooting first half and fell 67-78. Nothing was falling for the Lords in the first half, who were overcome by OWU’s strong start and found themselves down 14-5 after six minutes of play. OWU continued to build their lead to as much as 19 with two minutes to play in the first half, but the Lords were able to slightly cut into the lead and went into the break down 14, with a score of 38-24.
The Lords shot better in the second half, but unfortunately OWU did as well and the Lords were never able to put a real dent in the double-digit deficit.
The usual suspects led the Lords in this one. Lebowitz scored 20 of his 23 points in the second half and also pulled down nine rebounds. Pavlin also had a strong scoring game with 21 points on 9-16 shooting, including three three-pointers. OWU did a good job defensively on Nwadibia, who only managed to score nine points.
With the core four of Nwadibia, Lebowitz, Pavlin and Bell graduating, there will be lots of opportunity for other players on the roster to step up next year. A premature projection for next year would have a starting five of Handelsman, Jonathan Amador ’15, John Bray ’15, Brien Comey ’16 and Tim Connolly ’16. All these Lords have played significant minutes throughout their careers and shouldn’t have a difficult time stepping up into the starting lineup. Still, it is a large task to replace three double-digit scorers and Bell’s length and athleticism.
It’s a bittersweet moment in the Lords basketball program — a changing of the guard of sorts, as the Lords will need players to step up and contribute next year, — though Senior Day ended as a nice closeout for the seniors, as they were able to snag a win.
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