With his sleeves rolled up and his tie long forgotten on the bench, Mike Moran walked off the floor at the Tony DeCarlo Varsity Center for the last time this season.
It certainly could not have been the way that the longtime men’s basketball coach saw his 21st season ending, but the darkest year in recent program history might lead to nothing but positives in the long run.
The young Blue Streaks (12-13, 9-9) were hot early on Saturday, but it was not enough, as the Otterbein Cardinals walked into the DeCarlo Varsity Center and escaped with an 82-76 victory on Monday night.
Sophomore David Hendrickson led John Carroll with 26 points, while Jake Bischoff paced Otterbein with 27 points and six rebounds. Seniors Kyle Hubbard and Kenny Janz each recorded 13 points in their final games as Blue Streaks.
The Cardinals (9-18, 4-14) entered the game lucky to be in the tournament at all, earning the eighth seed based off Baldwin Wallace’s playoff ineligibility. A late-season seven-game losing streak nearly knocked them out of playoff contention.
John Carroll came out swinging, hitting 50 percent of their shots in the first half. Otterbein came back from a nine-point deficit to tie the game going into the half on a Bischoff three-pointer.
The second half was all Otterbein, as the Cardinals took the lead with 16:23 remaining on a Bischoff layup and never relinquished the advantage. The Cardinals got Hubbard into foul trouble and neutralized John Carroll’s shooters, giving themselves momentum for much of the second half.
Hendrickson spurred a late John Carroll rally that was undone by clutch play at the free throw line by Bischoff. The last shot of the season fell short, as Hendrickson tossed up a shot from five feet behind the three-point line, setting off an Otterbein celebration.
The 2012-2013 season marked the worst finish for the team since an 11-14 mark five years ago in the 2007-2008 season. It is only the fifth time a Moran-coached team has failed to achieve a winning record in conference play (9-9).
This 2012-2013 campaign will be remembered as a season where young players were asked to take the reins from the beginning of their careers. It was a tall order, especially considering the freshman class was replacing the most successful senior class in program history.
It was a season that included wins over then-ranked Christopher Newport and Marietta, but it also featured a three-game stretch where the team was beaten by 15-plus points by Capital, Baldwin Wallace and Wilmington.
Hubbard finished as the leading scorer for the Blue Streaks, averaging 16.5 points and 5.6 rebounds on the year. Hendrickson contributed 11 points off 40.9 percent shooting from behind the arc. Janz finished the year as the conference’s leader in scoring percentage, shooting 67.3 percent.
Departing seniors Janz and Hubbard will certainly be missed. But for a young, talented JCU team, the future is quite bright.