Huntington, Ind. - In first round action of the Ness. Bros. Hall of Fame Tournament, the Forester men's basketball team (5-0) earned a hard-fought 64-57 win over the Bulldogs of Wilberforce University to advance to the championship game where they will look to defend their title from a year ago.
They say defense is all about effort and both teams left no doubt they were going to give 40 minutes of all-out hustle. The first half was a low-scoring affair in which the Foresters found themselves playing catch up the majority of time but they scored the last four points of the half to claw their way to a 27-27 stalemate by intermission.
Despite shooting a dismal 31.4% (11-for-35) from the field, HU got the job defensively by forcing nine first half turnovers and limiting the visiting Bulldogs to 11 field goals. Shane Merryman accounted for a third of HU’s offensive output in the first half by scoring nine points and snagging four offensive boards.
After spotting the Bulldogs four points to start the second stanza, Huntington slowly and methodically turned things around, outscoring Wilberforce 15-2 over a nine-minute span to turn their four-point deficit into a 42-33 lead. TJ Short and Caleb Kennedy came up big, accounting for 13 of the 15 points. But the Bulldogs quickly countered with an 11-0 run over a 2 ½ minute span to reclaim the lead at 44-42.
Three lead changes and three ties later, the Foresters finally nosed ahead for good on a free toss by Justin Jantzi at the 4:57 mark. Down by two with just over 30 seconds remaining, the Bulldogs were forced to foul and HU freshman Ryan Boester calmly stepped to the line where he went 5-for-6 to seal the win.
Merryman led a balanced attack with a double double of 16 points and a game-high 12 boards. Kennedy tossed in 14 and Short finished with 13. Darius Foster paced the Bulldogs with a game-high 18 points. Tremayne Scott tallied 12 points and eight rebounds while Raymond Hall and Terrance Morgan chipped in 11 and ten points respectively.
Wilberforce will face Culver-Stockton College in the consolation game at 1:00 p.m. tomorrow. The Foresters will square-off against No. 3 Davenport University in the championship game slated for 3:00 p.m.