Men’s basketball clinches OAC regular season title

February 23rd, 2012

[Written by Spencer German]

Last Wednesday, a senior class that has seen continued success since its first years on campus, saw its regular season home games come to an end in an 87-50 rout of the Muskingum Muskies. No matter how bittersweet the Senior Night was for this historic class of Blue Streaks, there was still more business to do.

The Blue and Gold (18-6, 13-5 OAC) still had a date with Marietta (17-8, 12-6 OAC) on Saturday, Feb. 18 in a game that would crown the OAC’s regular season champion, and name the OAC Tournament’s No. 1 seed.

As the team headed off the bus after arriving at Marietta, it was senior Patrick Sweeney who broke the silence when he stated simply, “Let’s get after it.”

The Blue Streaks got off to a slow start out of the gate as a few early turnovers and missed shots left them down 10-2 with 16:43 to go in the first half.

However, they fought back as they overcame the deficit and took their first lead of the half 27-26 at the 6:01 mark. As the half continued to wind down, the JCU lead had ballooned to as much as eight points. At the break their lead had been cut to just five, 40-35.

The second half was set for a dramatic finish, as the two teams came out of the locker room, ready to go. The score bounced back and forth between the Pioneers and Blue Streaks as an epic finish was in store. With a little under 10 minutes to go, senior Joey Meyer banked in a layup that had JCU down just one point, 58-57. Meyer’s fellow senior teammate Conor Sweeney followed that up with a 3-pointer, which put them back on top 60-58.

The clock continued to tick away, and with 54 seconds to go John Carroll led by just one point 75-74. With just 16 seconds on the clock, last year’s OAC player of the year, Trevor Halter, hit a layup that put Marietta back on top.

What happened next would be a historic moment in John Carroll basketball history.

The Blue Streaks came out of a coach Mike Moran timeout, with a play set up. The ball was inbounded to senior Corey Shontz who took his time before driving the lane and drawing a double team that left Meyer wide open outside the arc. Shontz kicked it out to him and Meyer knocked down the three to put the Blue and Gold up 78-76. The gym went silent. Only six seconds remained, and Marietta could do nothing with it, as their last shot attempt was off the mark.

The experienced seniors of the team won their third OAC regular season championship in four years as their leadership clearly shined in the game that mattered most. The dynamic duo of Conor and Patrick Sweeney finished with 13 points each, and Meyer finished with a team-leading 14, which was also matched by junior Kyle Hubbard

Perhaps the biggest points of the game though from Meyer were the three that sunk Marietta, and silenced the crowd.

“Just what happened last year against Marietta, we lost on two buzzer beaters so it’s good to get one against them, but we’re not done this year,” said Meyer. “We have to prepare for the tournament, we want to win that.”

The potential 2012 OAC player of the year, Corey Shontz, was able to share his emotion about how much the win meant to him and his fellow seniors.

“It means more than you can possibly imagine. When we lost [teammate] Matt Crozier and we couldn’t win that third [OAC title], that was horrible for us,” said Shontz. “We knew this was our last chance and we gave it all we could, and we weren’t going to lose this game. Not for Crozier.”

The loss of Crozier last year has been perhaps one driving force for the team’s success this season as his number 50 jersey has been shared by all the seniors each game.

With the No. 1 seed locked up, the Blue Streaks won’t have to play until the semifinal round of the tournament, which will take place tonight at home in the Tony DeCarlo Varsity Center at 7:30 p.m. The Blue Streaks are undefeated  at home this season with a 9-0 record and a win in that game sends them to the OAC Tournament final on Saturday, which they will also have the luxury of hosting, with a NCAA Tournament bid also at stake.