DELAWARE, OHIO - Sophomore guard Nate Axelrod hit a trio of 3-pointers during a pair of first-half runs that helped 10th-ranked Ohio Wesleyan build a double-digit lead, and the Bishops withstood a potential game-tying shot in holding on for a 97-94 win over Lynchburg in second-round action in the NCAA Division III tournament on Saturday at Branch Rickey Arena.
Ohio Wesleyan advances to the round of 16 to face Benedictine (Ill.) in a sectional semifinal game on Friday. The other sectional semifinal matches St. Norbert (Wis.) against Alma (Mich.). The games will be played on the campus of one of the competing institutions.
The Bishops led, 94-84, with 3:27 remaining when Lynchburg rallied with a 3-pointer by Zack Burnett and a lay-in by Alex Graves.
Junior post Ben Simpson scored on a putback to give Ohio Wesleyan a 3-possession lead at 96-89 with 2:20 remaining, but the Hornets countered when Burnett converted a 3-point play off an A.J. Hamilton steal. After forcing a 30-second violation, Lynchburg pulled to within 96-94 on Burnett's lay-in with :57 left in regulation time.
Axelrod drove for a lay-in that didn't fall, and the Hornets cleared the rebound with a chance to tie. Sophomore guard Seth Clark came up with a steal and was fouled, and Clark hit the first of 2 free throws for a 97-94 Bishop lead with :12 left.
Bobby Ford got a look at the tying basket, but his shot hit the back iron. Ford, following his shot, tipped the ball back in the direction of Burnett, but the ball bounced into the backcourt. Burnett chased the ball down but was not able to get off a shot before the buzzer.
Ohio Wesleyan opened the game with a 10-2 burst that included 3-pointers by senior wing Claude Gray and Axelrod.
The Hornets chipped away at the deficit, closing to within 19-16 on Ford's 3-pointer with 13:01 left in the first half.
Axelrod knocked down a pair of 3-pointers and Simpson added another bucket from long range during a 13-4 Ohio Wesleyan ruan that made it 32-20 just past the midway point of the half, and Ohio Wesleyan would take its biggest lead of the half on a Clark 3-pointer that made it 53-38 with 3:13 to play.
Ohio Wesleyan still led by 15 points at 74-59 with 12:33 remaining, and the Bishops had a double-digit lead with 3:27 to go when the Hornets started their comeback.
Axelrod, Clark, and Simpson scored 22 points apiece for Ohio Wesleyan, with Simpson grabbing a team-high 16 rebounds and Axelrod dishing out 7 assists. Gray added 20 points, giving the Bishops their first quartet of 20-point scorers in a game for the first time in recent history.
Burnett led all scorers with 30 points. Graves finished with 17 points, Austen Arnold scored 15 points, and Hamilton added 10 points.