By Nathan DiCamillo, Sport’s Editor
“Everybody get up there and cut! Everybody!” Olivet’s head men’s basketball coach, Ralph Hodge, said after the CCAC championship game. Both nets were cut down on the evening of Feb. 28 in McHie Arena after the Tigers beat Cardinal Stritch University 90-80.
In addition to winning the regular season title, the Tigers were named the 2015 CCAC Tournament Champions for their win in an after game awards ceremony. At the same moment, Stritch Wolves’ senior Tony Smit, who had just been named CCAC Player of the Year, walked off the court with a low head and pursed lips.
At the game’s 13-minute mark, the Tigers held the lead and did not relinquish it. In the last ten seconds of the game, sophomore Tyler Crater, who contributed two 3-pointers to the Tigers’ performance, tossed the ball in the air in triumph and smiled.
“[Our game plan] is the same as it’s been all season long when we first started,” Hodge said before the game started. “We said it’s going to be a season of poise and purpose. That’s what we talked about all year long: staying in the moment. Being in control of our emotions, our mental state. [Then], playing with a purpose of how we’ve practiced, how we’ve prepared, of our team’s abilities.”
In the first half, the Tigers took the lead with a 12-0 run, but the Wolves fought back with a 7-0 run. The first half ended with the Tigers in the lead 38-28 after a layup by junior Zach Wagner, who led the Tigers in turnovers. In the second half, the Tigers and Wolves chased each other’s tails as the two teams scored back and forth with no runs longer than a 6-0 run by Olivet.
As he did Friday night against St. Xaiver, junior Aaron Larson led the team with nine rebounds. The Tigers’ field goal percentage was 53.7 percent to the Wolves’ 50.9 percent, and their three-pointer percentage was 42.9 percent to the Wolves’ 37.0 percent.
The Wolves scored more in basket points, but the Tigers won the game by free throws with 11 more free throws than the Wolves and a higher free throw percentage. Both teams substituted seven players, but the Tigers scored nine more bench points than the Wolves.
Fervent chanting and jeering came from the Tigers’ fans. By doing everything from howling to calling opposing player’s names to shouting “mine” like the seagulls from Finding Nemo, the crowd aided the Tigers in distracting Wolves’ players like Smit, who only made four out of 11 attempted 3-pointers.
The jeering came down hardest on the Wolves’ starter guard sophomore Tyler Semenas. After receiving five personal fouls, the crowd called out “left” and “right” for every step that Semenas took back to the bench and ended with a call to “sit down, already.”
There was positive cheering for Olivet’s three all-conference honorees: Wagner, who was awarded an honorable mention all-conference; senior Austin Davis, who was the highest scorer against the Wolves and was awarded second team all-conference; and Larson, who was awarded first team all-conference.
At the end of the game, Hodge credited his team’s victory to their “poised and purposeful” overall performance.
“[I] can’t single out any one guy. Everyone played really well,” Hodge said.