Ohio Wesleyan Falls in NCAC Tournament Championship

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Senior guard Nate Axelrod and senior guard Seth Clark connected on 3-pointers to cap an early 19-8 run, but sixth-ranked Wittenberg rallied during the second half to defeat Ohio Wesleyan in the North Coast Athletic Conference tournament championship game on Saturday in Springfield.

With the win, Wittenberg receives the NCAC's automatic qualifier to the NCAA Division III tournament.

The Bishops hit their first 5 shots from beyond the arc, with senior post Adam O'Brien (Wooster) knocking down a pair and sophomore post Derrick Wyche adding one before a Clark steal and lay-in and trifectas from Axelrod and Clark stretched the Bishop lead to 19-8.

Ohio Wesleyan still led, 26-21, on a lay-in by sophomore post Jake Hecker just past the midway point of the first half, but Wittenberg put together a 10-4 run to take the lead, holding the Bishops without a field goal for more than 7 minutes during that stretch.

Junior wing Chris Allocco knocked down a 3-pointer from the left corner and Clark drove the lane for a lay-in to even the score at 35 at the half.

Wyche and Clark drilled 3-pointers early in the second half to give the Bishops a 41-37 lead, but the Tigers countered with an 11-2 run that included a pair of lay-ins by Connor Seipel.  Rashaad Ali-Shakir helped Wittenberg extend the margin to 52-46 with a lay-in, and then to 58-50 with a pair of free throws with 11:05 remaining.

Wyche broke free for a lay-in to make it 58-52 at the midway point of the second half, but Wittenberg responded with a 14-6 run capped by 3-pointers from Jordan Pumroy and Mitchell Balser, the latter giving the hosts a 72-58 lead with 7:20 left in regulation time.

Axelrod connected from downtown to bring Ohio Wesleyan within 74-65 with 4:39 left, but the Bishops did not come closer than that 9-point margin.

Axelrod led the Bishops with 23 points and 7 assists.  The 23 points raised his career total to 2001, making him the second men's basketball player in Ohio Wesleyan history and the fourth in NCAC history to surpass the 2000-point mark.

Clark finished with 21 points, raising his career total to 1699, ranking seventh all-time at Ohio Wesleyan.

Wyche finished with 10 points.

Connor Seipel led Wittenberg with 28 points and 10 rebounds.

Axelrod and Clark represented Ohio Wesleyan on the all-tournament team.  They were joined by Garrett Collier of Denison, Alex Baptiste of Wooster, Chad Roy of Wittenberg, and Seipel, who was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player.