Marietta upends Centre 67-62
Pioneers advance to face Wittenberg in NCAA Second Round
MARIETTA, Ohio -- Thirty-six year later, Marietta gets another shot at Wittenberg in the NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball tournament.
The Pioneers (26-3) advanced with a 67-62 victory against Centre (Ky.) in front of 1,541 at Ban Johnson Arena Friday night.
“We knew we were going to have to battle with Centre,” said Marietta coach Jon VanderWal. “We made a couple of big plays down the stretch that helped us pull this one out.”
In 1975, VanderWal, much less any of his players, wasn’t even born when Wittenberg defeated the Pioneers 85-70 at the old Ban Johnson Fieldhouse. So revenge is probably far from anyone’s mind.
This is Marietta’s first appearance since 1975, while Wittenberg is making its NCAA record 25th appearance.
“We’re not going to get a lot of sleep tonight because we have to get ready for Wittenberg,” VanderWal said. “They are a lot like Centre in that Wittenberg has two really good low post guys, but I think they have some better players who can really shoot.”
Marietta and the Tigers (20-8) play at 7 p.m. Saturday on Fenton Court.
“We’re going to have to play better tomorrow if we want to get out of here,” VanderWal said.
The Pioneers played very well in the first half against Centre (21-6). Trevor Halter had 10 of his 15 points to lead Marietta to a 33-20 advantage going into the locker room.
The Colonels, who are making their fifth consecutive appearance in the tournament, didn’t back down. Centre trailed by just two with 5:19 to play, behind six three-point baskets -- two each from Donovan Whiteside, Bryon Ellis and Jeff Mullaney.
“That’s kind of who we’ve been this year,” said Centre coach Greg Mason. “We had the same philosophy in the second half, we just starting making the shots.”
“(Having a lead) helped us out a lot because they made some shots in the second half,” said Halter, who had five rebounds. “They attacked us more.”
Centre’s aggressiveness got the better of them, though. Greg Ross, who had 15 points, got a technical just seconds after turning the ball over and recording his fourth foul with 7:19 to play.
“We have not had a technical in seven or eight years,” Mason said. “He’s our guy. In our conference championship against DePauw we went to him every possession at the end of the game.”
The Pioneers’ go-to guy rotated from Kevin Knab (15 points) to Tyler Hammond (15 points) to J.J. Martin (11 points).
Hammond buried a key three-pointer with 1:53 to play that lifted Marietta to a seven-point lead -- where the Pioneers kept the advantage most of the way.
“I thought Kevin was going to take it, but then I called for it and I had to step up,” Hammond said.
Now Marietta needs someone else to step up to make history and reach the Sweet 16 next week.
“It’s going to be a grind no matter how long you play,” VanderWal said. “The atmosphere is definitely different now. If we lose we’re done and that adds pressure. But last week’s OAC Tournament really helped us for this moment.”
NOTE: Tickets for Saturday's Second Round game will go on sale at 3 p.m. inside the Ban Johnson Arena lobby. Adult tickets are $6, while students and senior citizens can get in for $3.