Men: Swat tops Dips, Witt stuns Woo

Zack Yonda's Senior Day at Swarthmore ended up being one to remember.
Swarthmore athletics file photo 

One of Division III basketball's premier rivalries produced one of the most exciting games of the season, as Jacob Bertmis made three-point plays at the end of regulation and overtime to lift Wittenberg over Wooster 78-77 in overtime. Elsewhere Swarthmore clinched the top seed in the Centennial Conference tournament and Middlebury's and New Jersey City's slumps will lead to a long wait leading up to Selection Monday.

After winning its first 22 games, No. 5 Wittenberg entered Saturday night's home game against No. 17 Wooster needing a win to secure home court in the NCAC playoffs. The Tigers honored their seniors in a pregame ceremony and then Wooster led for much of regulation and held a 66-60 advantage with 21 seconds left in the second half. The Tigers scored twice sandwiched around two missed Wooster free throws to pull within 66-64 and then got the ball back down three after the Scots split a pair of free throws. Bertemis hit a three with one second left in regulation to send the game to overtime. 

In overtime Wooster's Ari Stern was fouled with 25 seconds left and the Scots down one. He made both free throws to put Wooster in front 76-75 and, after a Wittenberg miss, Danyon Hempy was fouled and split a pair to extend Wooster's lead to 77-75. But Bertemis raced down the floor, made the runner and drew the foul that set up the game winning free throw.

Bertemis finished with 26 points for Wittenberg (23-2, 16-2) while Stern scored 12 points for Wooster after scoring 19 altogether the rest of the season.

In a day in which Franklin & Marshall guard Brandon Federici reached the 2,000-point milestone, his off-balance shot at the buzzer did not fall and 12th-ranked Swarthmore held off the No. 24 Diplomats 58-56 to claim the top seed in the upcoming Centennial Conference tournament. Swarthmore put together a 12-5 run over the a six-minute stretch of the second half to take a 56-49 lead with 2:44 left, but F&M made it a one-possession game off a Lionel Owona layup. The Garnet (21-4, 15-3) retook a five-point lead, 58-53, with 56 seconds remaining. Matthew Tate hit a 3-pointer to bring F&M (20-5, 14-4) within two and after two missed free throws by the Garnet, Federici's final shot came up short. Zack Yonda led the Garnet with a game-high 16 points.

It'll be a long wait for Middlebury and New Jersey City until the NCAA Tournament bracket is released on Monday, Feb. 26.

The NESCAC tournament starts early, and Middlebury entered it off a two-game slide. Then they slid out of the tournament on its opening afternoon,  falling to Wesleyan, 73-65. The two teams were among the five who finished the NESCAC slate tied for first and were playing each other, as the No. 4 and No. 5 seed once tiebreakers were applied. The Panthers (19-6) led with five minutes to go, but Austin Hutcherson completed a traditional three-point play with 4:38 left to give Wesleyan (20-5) a 56-54 lead. From there, the Cardinals made enough free throws to hold off the Panthers, who missed eight of their 11 field goal attempts in the final minutes. 

Middlebury could well make the NCAA Tournament, but it might require the committee taking five NESCAC teams. The remaining favorites all advanced, with top-seeded Amherst edging eighth-seeded Bowdoin 71-70 on a Josh Cherry layup with five seconds left and No. 2 seed Williams surviving a challenge from No. 7 Trinity (Conn.), 73-71.

New Jersey City used an 18-2 rally in the final 6:17 to try to overcome a 23-point second half deficit and pulled within one with 20 seconds left but couldn't force overtime. No. 6 seeded William Paterson shocked the Gothic Knights, the No. 3 seed, winning 81-78 to advance to the NJAC tournament semifinals. NJCU started the week 19-5 but lost its final game of the NJAC regular season slate and fell in the first round of the tournament as well.

William Paterson (15-11) was led by 28 points and eight rebounds from Richy Espinal. Although NJCU was the top team in the NCAA's last Atlantic Region rankings, the teams were fairly tightly packed and two consecutive losses could see the Gothic Knights on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament.

Montclair State defeated Rowan in the other NJAC first round game, 77-73 in overtime. Senior Jovanni Chatham scored seven of his 15 points in the extra period as the Red Hawks (18-8) squandered a 12-point second half lead before outscoring the Profs (13-13) 13-9 in the overtime. Ramapo and TCNJ got first-round byes.

Tyler Weiss contributed a game-high 20 points to go with eight rebounds and three blocks as No. 3-ranked St. John's overcame a sluggish offensive game for both teams to beat the host Tommies, 57-50, and cap off a 19-1 MIAC season. It was just the second home loss of the season for St. Thomas (14-11, 12-8). With a standing-room crowd of near 1,800 on hand, the Tommies only had six turnovers but had the program's lowest offensive output in 13 seasons.

UW-Platteville completed the unlikely turnaround, becoming the first team to go from last place to first in one season in the highly competitive Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. The Pioneers beat UW-River Falls 81-69 on Bo Ryan Court and claimed their first conference championship since 2005 and -- coupled with UW-Stevens Point's loss at UW-Eau Claire -- their first outright crown since 1999. UW-Platteville awaits the lowest remaining seed from Wednesday's first-round conference tournament games. Platteville went 1-13 in the WIAC last season.

Union took down No. 21 Hobart, ending the Statesmen's 15-game winning streak. Kevin McNoble scored a game-high 28 points and added 12 rebounds, all defensive, as the Dutchmen wrapped up the No. 2 seed in the Liberty League tournament and a first-round bye.

Jimmy Golaszewski hit a deep 3-pointer from the wing with two seconds remaining in the game and Catholic forced its way into the Landmark Conference tournament, defeating Moravian 90-88. The Greyhounds, who wer playing for the top seed in the conference's tournament, fell to 18-7, 10-4 in the league and will be the second seed. Catholic (15-10, 9-5) led by as many as 15 early in the second half before Moravian battled back into it, as Jimmy Murray scored 16 of his 25 points after halftime. But Jay Howard, Riley Hayes and Golasewski countered with 19 apiece for the Cardinals, who survived to advance. CJ Barnes had hit a layup off a feed from Murray and added a free throw with 12.9 seconds left to give Moravian the lead for the first time all game.

The USA South still has another day of regular season action to go before the conference season ends, but Maryville saw a streak snapped as Huntingdon hit a 3-pointer in overtime to get past the Scots 94-93. The win snapped Maryville's 21-game home winning streak. Kyante Pines' shot helped the Hawks improve to just 10-14, 4-11 in conference action. Brandon McLean led the way with a game-high 23 points, while Pines added 21. Kaleb Estes and Calvin Songster led Maryville (18-6, 13-2) with 20 apiece.

Christopher Newport lost the CAC regular season finale to York (Pa.), but won the tiebreaker and will be the top seed in the CAC tournament. The Spartans missed their first 11 shots as the Captains sprinted out to a 15-2 lead en route to a 81-71 win.

Plattsburgh State wrapped up the SUNYAC slate at 17-1 and got 15 players on the scoreboard in a 102-69 win vs. SUNY New Paltz. Eli Brant led the Cardinals with 19 points, one of four scorers in double figures.

Marietta outscored Ohio Northern by 24 points in the second half to turn a two-point halftime deficit into an 88-68 runaway victory. But it was not enough as John Carroll won the top seed in the OAC tournament after the teams finished tied atop the conference standings. Marietta finishes the regular season 20-5 overall and 14-4 in the OAC.

Illinois Wesleyan remained on top of the CCIW standings with one game left in the conference season as the Titans rolled to a 92-63 win at Carthage. Augustana remained one game behind, with a 77-60 win vs. North Park.