Marietta captures OAC Tournament crown - Feb 27, 2017
Marietta College, which has come up short in the Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament the past few years, left no doubt Saturday night who is the best in 2017.
The eighth-ranked Pioneers, behind a 28-point effort from senior A.J. Edwards (6'5''-F) (Twinsburg, Ohio/Twinsburg), defeated Baldwin Wallace 83-74 in front of 1,527 fans at Ban Johnson Arena.
"It never gets boring," said Edwards, who was named the tournament MVP. "We know how it feels to be on the other side of this and that makes us appreciate it that much more. It's one of the greatest feelings ever."
Marietta (24-4) is now assured a spot in the NCAA Division III Tournament when the pairings are announced at 12:30 p.m. Monday. The Pioneers, who earned the OAC automatic bid, will be hosting a selection show watch party in the Dyson Baudo Trustee Conference Room.
Coach Jon VanderWal has guided the Pioneers to the NCAA Tournament for the fifth time since he arrived in 2007. Marietta is also returning for a third consecutive season. It is also the third OAC Tournament title for coach Jon VanderWal .
"It means a lot. All of the hard work that these guys put in all year," VanderWal said. "The regular season title is the best over 18 games - that's really special. But any time you get into tournament play, things get pretty interesting. So for us to get two championships out of this season and to really have some momentum going into the national tournament I think that's what I like about it best."
Marietta opened the game by making its first 10 shots, which led to a 25-10 lead. The Yellow Jackets (15-13) was able to cut into that lead with six three-point baskets and the Pioneers led 39-35 going into the half.
In the second half, Marietta extended the lead to as many as 20 on a jumper by Anthony Wallace (6'2''-G) (Wheeling, W.Va./The Linsly School) with 4:37 to play. While BW started to chip away again, a 3-pointer by Raneal Ewing (6'0''-PG) (Westerville/Dublin Scioto) with 1:34 remaining pretty much put the game away.
From the start, Marietta looked to get the ball inside to Edwards. He made 11 of 17 from the field and 6 of 10 from the foul line. He also had eight rebounds, as the Pioneers never trailed in the contest.
"If they are going to play me one-on-one, then that's what's going to happen," Edwards said. "I don't think the plan was to get it to me."
VanderWal interrupted Edwards and said, "No, that was the plan," VanderWal said. "I'm really proud of this guy. He got a little bit of surprise earlier this week when he found out he wasn't the MVP of the league. We all just kind of assumed that was going to happen. We kind of used that as some motivation and I think playing in the championship game after winning the regular season title, and scoring 28 points in the championship game he proved he's the real MVP."
Edwards was equally excited for his fellow seniors, who are now the winningest in school history. The other seniors are Tyler Irish (5'10''-PG) (St. Johns, Fla./Bartram Trail), Jack Thome (6'6''-F) (Chagrin Falls, Ohio/Chagrin Falls), Nate Walker (6'1''-PG) (Chandler, Ariz./Hamilton) and Ewing.
"The Class of 2017 is like no other," Edwards said. "They are like brothers. You get so close to them, and going through ups and downs. It's friendships and brotherhood for a lifetime."
Much of the enthusiastic crowd stayed around the gym to celebrate with the players and coaches.
"Our atmosphere here at the BanJo is just unbelievable," VanderWal said. "The support that we get from this community and the students on campus is really unmatched."
Wallace also made the All-Tournament team after scoring 19 in the title game to go with five rebounds. Senior Keith Richardson (5'9''-PG) (Englewood, Ohio/Northmont) had 14 points, and Ewing had seven rebounds as the Pioneers grabbed 40 as a team to just 25 for BW.
Baldwin Wallace's Jay Battle (6'0''-PG) (16 points) and Michael Quiring (15 points) were each named all-tournament, as was Mount Union's Tommy Stenger (6'3''-SG) and Muskingum's Joshua Keyes (6'7''-F-95).
OAC Tournament Final: Marietta - Baldwin Wallace 83-74
OAC Tournament Semifinals:
Marietta - Mount Union 100-78
Baldwin Wallace - Muskingum 95-78
Courtesy of Pioneers