|Elijah Wilson-Thomas fell behind the record pace with two missed free throws in the second half, but rallied.
Earlham athletics file photo
Earlham senior guard Elijah Wilson-Thomas sent his team home a winner on Senior Day and wrote his name into the NCAA Division III record books as well as he finished his career as the NCAA record-holder for best career free-throw percentage.
Wilson-Thomas surpassed former Johns Hopkins guard (and current Southern Cal head coach) Andy Enfield by hundredths of a percentage point, going 9-for-11 on Saturday afternoon to edge past the former record holder. Wilson-Thomas and Enfield each finished their careers with a .925 free throw percentage, but Wilson-Thomas' mark is .9253 (260-for-281), while Enfield's was .9249 (431-for-466).
It required a career day at the foul line for Wilson-Thomas, whose 11 free throws attempts were a career high for a single game, and he needed the final two foul shots of the day -- in overtime -- to set the mark. In addition, Wilson-Thomas finished his time in a Quakers uniform with a game-winning layup with 4.7 seconds left to lift Earlham to a 74-73 upset of Mount St. Joseph.
The free throws which put him over the top came with 52 seconds left in overtime, cutting Earlham's deficit from three points to one. After a Mount St. Joseph turnover, Wilson-Thomas drove baseline for the game-winning layup in the closing seconds. He finished with a game-high 23 points in the win.
Also on Saturday, Franklin & Marshall senior guard Brandon Federici scored 14 points to get over the 2,000-point mark, finishing the day with 2,010. His Diplomats lost 58-56 at Swarthmore in a battle for the Centennial Conference top seed. Federici, who earlier became Franklin & Marshall's all-time leading scorer, is the first men's basketball player in Centennial Conference history to reach the 2,000-point plateau.
"It's a humungous honor and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't always thinking about it, but at this point in the season it's just a distraction," Federici told D3sports.com "I'm glad I got it and it's over; it's in the record books. All I want more than anything is a Centennial Conference championship, to get a bid and do somewhat well in the tournament -- it's the only thing I don't really have in my career."
Patrick MacDonald had a senior day moment as well, as the SUNY-Maritime big man pulled down 11 rebounds, including the 1,000th of his career. He also added 18 points on 9-for-12 shooting to lift the Privateers to an 85-77 win vs. Sarah Lawrence.
Mike Rapoza continued his hot shooting for Anna Maria, going 5-for-5 on Saturday to extend his streak of consecutive field goals made to 26 in a row, breaking the Division III record set by Todd Richards of Mount Union in 2000. He came off the bench on the AMCATs senior day to provide 14 points and a game-high 16 rebounds in a 91-73 win vs. Emmanuel. Rapoza has a shot at the all-divisions record of 30, as Anna Maria plays top seeded Albertus Magnus in the quarterfinals of the Great Northeast Athletic Conference tournament next week.
And Wilson-Thomas wasn't the only player to set a free throw mark on Saturday. Grinnell's Vinny Curta set two single-season free throw records with the same shot, including breaking a record that was more than 40 years old. Curta tied the NCAA Division III record for free throws made and attempted in a season on the second of two charity shots with 4:48 remaining in the first half. That tied the marks of 249 and 326 established by Dave Russell of Shepherd in 1975 and Moses Jean-Pierre of Plymouth State in 1994. Curta went on to take sole possession of the records on his next trip to the stripe, when he sank two free throws with 10:54 left in the game. He finished the game 8-of-9 from the free throw line, making him 252-of-329 for the season.
Contributing: Ryan Scott