By Anna Dunlavey
The men’s basketball team has suffered five losses in the month of February, all of them by margins of five points or fewer. Two of those losses came this past week, with the Lords ending their season in heartbreaking fashion. On the cusp of the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) tournament, the Lords dropped two critically important games. Last Wednesday’s loss to Wittenberg University ended with a score of 80-75, and the final game of the season, against Wabash College, resulted in a one-point overtime loss of 68-67.
“I give our guys a lot of credit,” Head Coach Dan Priest said. “It would have been easy to get pretty discouraged, even last week, going into the end of the season, and they still played really hard and put in a lot of heart and emotion.”
The Lords kept pace with Wittenberg throughout the first half, but the Tigers, who held a 31-26 lead when the game hit halftime, scored nine points within the first 90 seconds of the second half.
The gap between the Tigers and the Lords only increased over the next six minutes, but when they were down by 14, Tim Connolly ’16 was able to bring them back. The Lords scored 14 unanswered points with 10 minutes remaining in the game, and Connolly was responsible for eight for them. Almost half of Connolly’s team-leading 20 points came from that run. With the game tied at 51, Bennett Grigull ’18 hit a free throw for the Lords to take a 52-51 lead.
The Lords could not hold the close lead for long. The Tigers quickly overtook them, and with a little less than three minutes to go, the score was 72-62. However, within that minute, a 3-pointer and a jumper each from Cooper Handelsman ’15 and Jonathan Amador ’15, and a 3-pointer from Connor Garrity ’15, once again brought the game to within one point. The game was decided at the free-throw line with 30 seconds left, after two different Wittenberg players were fouled and both made their free throws. The final score of the Lords’s final home game of the season was 80-75 in favor of the Tigers.
The Lords kept their hopes up, however, as they headed to Wabash College for what would be their final game of the regular season. The Lords kept pace with the Little Giants over the first half, but the home team came off the court at the end of the half with a slight lead of 30-28.
In the second half, the Little Giants began to take charge; they were leading by five points with just over four minutes left in regulation when Handelsman got the Lords within one. He scored two layups on consecutive Lords possessions. The Lords and Little Giants then traded the lead over the final minute of the game, but it was forced to overtime at a 59-59 tie.
Under other circumstances, the Lords might have been able to better capitalize on their overtime chance. In this game, however, the Lords were made to pay for the 28 personal fouls they committed over the course of the game.
Offensive powerhouses John Bray ’15 and Brian Comey ’16 had already fouled out by overtime, and Phillip Crampton ’18, who went into overtime with four fouls, fouled out during overtime. Amador also entered overtime with four fouls, but he ended up having a foul committed on him, with only four seconds left and the score at 68-65 in Wabash’s favor. Amador made two of his three free throws, bringing the Lords within one, and although Garrity grabbed the rebound and took a shot in the final three seconds, the Lords could not get that final basket. Overtime, and the season, ended there.
“We were a pretty good team,” Priest said of the season. “We just had trouble with one basket here or there, one rebound here or there.”
For the team’s four seniors, the Wabash game marked the end of their college careers, but they largely went out on a high note. Handelsman ended this season with 108 total points, the fifth-best single-season mark in Kenyon history. The last time the team played Wittenberg, on Jan. 21, Bray hit his career high of 25 points in a single game. “Our seniors had a lot of resolve,” Priest said. “All four of them played big roles in both games.”