In late season situations, teams often rely on their veteran players to lead the team down the stretch.
On Saturday afternoon, a group of underclassmen carried the weight for the men’s basketball team.
Sophomore David Hendrickson scored 15 points off the bench, but it was not enough, as John Carroll fell to the Wilmington Quakers, 84-66, at Fred Raizk Arena.
More often than not in head coach Mike Moran’s tenure, his second group has been counted on for fresh legs, defensive stops and a strong transition offense. After a long season in which those underclassmen have played a key role in the rotation, Moran took their influence to a whole new level.
On Saturday, Moran started off the game against the Quakers with the “second platoon,” leaving his starters on the bench.
The starters came in after nearly three minutes, but the message was sent that the Blue Streaks would do anything to stop their losing slide. Unfortunately for John Carroll, Wilmington had the momentum of Senior Night and Malcolm Heard II on their side.
Neither team was able to find their footing early, until a Heard jumper at 16:00 started an 18-2 run over the next four minutes. After trailing 23-4 at that point, the Blue Streaks rallied to only trail by 11 at the half, but the damage was done.
Heard erupted for 18 points in the first half. He would finish with 22 points and 10 rebounds.
Heard’s performance was reminiscent of his 34-point performance last Feb. 23, when the Quakers upset the Blue Streaks, 79-74, in the Ohio Athletic Conference Semifinals. Many of the current Blue Streaks were not on the roster for that game, but have still felt the aftereffects of the now three-game winning streak in the matchup by the Quakers.
The second half saw Moran emptying his bench to give young players time. Freshman Simon Kucharewicz was impressive in the second half, compiling eight points, six rebounds and two blocks in the later minutes. He would finish with nine points, 11 rebounds and three blocks.
John Carroll fell to 10-12 overall and 7-9 in the OAC, while Wilmington improved to 11-12 and 9-7 in the OAC. It was the third consecutive loss for John Carroll, a team that has now been defeated by double digits or more in seven of their nine conference losses.
The Blue Streaks have locked up a home playoff game, which will most likely take place as part of a rare doubleheader on Monday night at the DeCarlo Varsity Center. The team will likely be the fifth or sixth seed and will play immediately following a playoff game involving the women’s basketball team, which has locked up the sixth seed for the OAC Tournament.
Editor’s Note: The JCU men’s basketball team played their second-to-last game of the 2012-2013 regular season last night as they traveled to Westerville, Ohio to take on the host Otterbein Cardinals. For final scores, box scores, statistics, game stories and more, please go to www.jcusports.com