Ohio Wesleyan Defeats Wooster in NCAC Tournament Semifinal

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Senior guard Nate Axelrod scored the game-winning bucket and senior guard Seth Clark set a pair of school records on the way to a career-high 44 points as Ohio Wesleyan defeated 17th-ranked Wooster in a North Coast Athletic Conference tournament semifinal matchup on Friday in Springfield.

Ohio Wesleyan advances to the tournament championship game to face sixth-ranked Wittenberg, a 97-73 winner over Denison in Friday's first semifinal.  Saturday's tip-off is set for 4 p.m. at Wittenberg University in Springfield.

As the extra session wound down, Axelrod drove the lane and scored to break an 83-83 tie and give the Bishops the lead, but Wooster came back when Spencer Williams grabbed an offensive rebound and scored with :30 left.  Williams was fouled on the play but missed the free throw that would have given the Fighting Scots the lead and Clark was fouled on the rebound with :28.6 to play.

Clark hit the second of 2 free throws to put the Bishops up, 86-85.  Ohio Wesleyan induced a miss by Williams on Wooster's next possession, but Alex Baptiste got the offensive rebound and sophomore post Derrick Wyche (Lewis Center/Olentangy) was called for a foul on the play, and Baptiste made both free throws for an 87-86 Wooster lead with :09.8 to go.

Axelrod went coast-to-coast on Ohio Wesleyan's ensuing possession, driving and scoring to give the Bishops an 88-87 lead with :05.1 remaining.

Challenged by the Bishop defense, Williams brought the ball up for Wooster and got it to Danyon Hempy at the 3-point line, but Hempy's 3-pointer for the win was off the rim.

Ohio Wesleyan trailed, 62-48, with 14:36 left in regulation time, and the Bishops were still down by a 68-56 margin with 8:16 remaining when Clark started the Bishop comeback by scoring Ohio Wesleyan's next 16 points.  He drilled a 3-pointer to start the run, followed with a pair of free throws and a 3-pointer, then produced another sequence of a pair of free throws and a 3-pointer to pull Ohio Wesleyan within 72-69 with 4:25 remaining.  Another Clark trifecta made it a 74-72 game, and after a Williams jumper, Axelrod connected on a 3-pointer to trim the deficit to 76-75 with 2:45 left in regulation time.

Baptiste sank the first of 2 free throws with 2:15 left, and Ari Stern hit the second of 2 free throws with :15 to play to give the Fighting Scots a 78-75 lead.

Axelrod then drove the lane and scored with :07 on the clock, was fouled on the play, and sank the free throw to knot the score at 78.  Hempy had a look at a game-winning 3-pointer, but his shot was off the mark.

Wooster had opened the game with a 9-0 run, and the Scots led by as many as 10 points on 3 different occasions, the last at 17-7.  Ohio Wesleyan took the lead with a 13-2 run that included a pair of 3-pointers by freshman wing Dawsin Tillman and a 3-pointer and a lay-in by Clark.  Tillman's second 3-pointer put the Bishops up, 20-19.

The Bishops would take their biggest lead of the opening half on a lay-in by sophomore post Grant Gossard, but Wooster assembled a 12-2 run fueled by 8 points from Hempy, and the Fighting Scots would lead by a 41-37 margin at the half.  A 7-0 run early in the second half extended Wooster's margin into double digits, setting up Ohio Wesleyan's thrilling comeback.

Clark ended up scoring 27 points in the second half alone and finished with a career-high 44 points, tying for fourth place on the all-time Ohio Wesleyan single-game list.  The last Ohio Wesleyan player to tally 40 points in a game was Travis Schwab, who also did so against Wooster in the semifinals of the NCAC tournament at Wittenberg, with that performance occurring on Feb. 26, 2004.  Clark's 44 points also established an NCAC tournament single-game record, breaking the record set by Schwab in 2004.

Clark went 11-for-18 from 3-point range, with both of those figures setting school records.  The 11 3-point field goals breaks the mark of 10 set by Nick Felhaber at Oberlin on Jan. 21, 2015, and the 18 3-point field goal attempts breaks the record of 17 set by J.R. Shumate against Thomas More on Dec. 13, 1995.  Clark's 11 3-point field goals also set an NCAC tournament record.

Axelrod finished with 16 points and 4 assists.

Hempy led Wooster with 23 points.