LIMA – It was a night of firsts at the University of Northwestern Ohio as Lourdes came a visiting in Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference tournament play.
It was the first ever home game for UNOH in WHAC tournament action and the Racers were determined to make the most of the opportunity.
Thanks to a late second half surge, the Racers pulled away from the Gray Wolves and claimed a hard fought 83-69 win for the first WHAC tournament win in school history.
It was “big boy” basketball from the start; tough, hard-nosed defense by both teams and every possession worth its weight in gold.
UNOH squeezed out a 37-32 half-time lead despite struggling to find their shooting touch. The Racers connected on only 46 percent from the field in the first half, including 3-of-12 from 3-point land.
Someone was going to have to step up and it just happened to be Jon Slagle (Sidney Lehman) who hit two big three-pointers to jump the Racers to the victory.
UNOH was clinging to a 44-43 lead when Slagle hit back to back three’s at the 13:50 and 13:20 mark of the second half to give the Racers a 50-43 lead.
“That was the breaking point of the game; that really ignited us.” UNOH coach Chris Adams said. “Ed Jenkins hit another three and we had control. Lourdes is a tough-minded team and very well coached, they don’t take bad shots and that forces you to play good defense.”
The Racers (21-8) were able to relax and out-scored the Gray Wolves 33-26 the rest of the way to hold on for the win and advance in tournament play.
“It’s great to be surrounded by so many great players, they take the focus off of me and I was able to hit those three’s.” Slagle said. “I was very thankful to hit those shots and everything seemed to click for us after that.”
Lourdes (16-15) got a game-high 24 points from Elvin Butler while Eric Worthey added 18 and Zach Steinmetz chipped in with 11 points for the Gray Wolves. Lourdes hit 26-of-44 (59 percent) from the floor but struggled with 14 turnovers against the tough Racers man to man defense.
“Derrick Tate did a good job on Steinmetz and Deion Robinson did a good job of spelling Tate,” Adams said. “We are an unselfish mixed with good chemistry and seniors who don’t want to lose.”
The Racers were paced by Johnny Elliott who totaled 18 points in the contest. Jenkins added 16 points while Tate chipped in with 14 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
The Racers finished the game connecting on 54 percent from the field on 30-of-55 shooting. UNOH also connected on 16-of-19 free throws including 7-of-9 in the final six minutes of the contest.
The win sends number three seed UNOH on to meet number two seed Davenport at 3 p.m. Saturday in Grand Rapids, Mich.