After beating cross-town rival Baldwin-Wallace for the first time in their last seven meetings, the Blue Streaks advanced to the OAC championship game against host Capital.
JCU and Capital finished the regular season as co-champs in the OAC.
During the regular season, the teams split their two meetings. Unfortunately, in the rubber match JCU fell to Capital 78-73 on Saturday night.
“Anytime you play in a championship game, you want to make sure you leave it all on the court,” said senior Brandon Mimes.
“I think we did that but unfortunately we didn’t come out on top.”
Despite a career-high 34 points from Mimes, JCU fell short in its bid for the schools third OAC tournament title.
The Blue Streaks led 30-24 with 5:15 left in the first half, but Capital closed out the half on an 11-3 run to take a 35-33 lead into halftime.
For the second night in a row, the Blue Streaks would use an early spurt in the second half to seize control of the game.
In the semifinals against B-W, the Blue Streaks trailed by five at halftime then scored the first five points of the second half.
Against Capital the Blue Streaks started the second half on a 12-2 run to take its biggest lead of the game 45-37 just two minutes into the second half.
Capital responded with a 13-3 run of their own to regain the lead 50-48 with 12:30 left in the game. A Mimes lay-up with 7:30 left tied the game at 59-59.
For the remainder of the game, the two teams traded punches back and forth.
Another Mimes lay-up with 2:40 left gave JCU its final lead 68-67. With the game tied 69-69 Capital threw the final punch in a matter of seven seconds.
First, Capital sophomore Quintin Mitchell scored with 1:12 left to give the Crusaders a two point lead. On the next trip down the floor for the Blue Streaks, Mimes picked up his fifth foul on a charge.
The Blue Streaks trailed 73-71 with 28 seconds left but Capital junior Steve Kyser scored a lay-up and got fouled on the play to give Capital its biggest lead of the half with just 22 seconds left.
If there was a positive in the loss to Capital, it will pay off in the NCAA tournament.
“Playing close games will help us the next time we are in that situation,” said senior Chris Day. “In order to win the NCAA tournament we need to execute better down the stretch of games.”
With the win, Capital received the OAC’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
After fouling out against Capital, Mimes wondered if it was his final game as a Blue Streak.
“You don’t know what happens when you leave your fate in the hands of a committee,” added Mimes.
Fortunately, the day after losing the conference championship game Mimes and the rest of the Blue Streaks received word that they received one of 18 at-large bids to the NCAA tournament.
Tonight the Blue Streaks will embark on a journey that they hope ends in Salem, Virginia, the site of the Final Four.
“It’s a brand new season,” said Mimes. “Coach Moran told us its a six game season. We’re excited to be able to at least have a chance.”
Up first for the Blue Streaks is Westminster College.
The game is tonight at 7 p.m. at the Tony DeCarlo Varsity Center. Playing this game at home will be a big advantage for the Blue Streaks.
“Having our student body, pep band, cheerleaders and fans at the game is a true homecourt advantage,” said head coach Mike Moran.
Westminster won the regular season title in the Presidents Athletic Conference.
However, they lost in the conference semifinals of their tournament to Grove City College. The Titans enter tonight’s game with a record of 18-8.
The two teams have played one common opponent this season- Marietta. Westminster beat Marietta 98-73 on Dec. 30. The Blue Streaks beat Marietta 87-71 on Jan. 6 and 85-58 on Feb. 10.
Coach Moran said, “Westminster attempts 35 three pointers a game. This makes them a difficult team to defend.”
“They have two or three guys that on any given night can carry a team. We have to defend the perimiter well,” said coach Moran.
The winner of tonight’s game will advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament and play at Lake Erie College on Saturday night at 7 p.m.