DEARBORN, Mich. – History was made at the University of Michigan-Dearborn Fieldhouse on Monday Night in front of a capacity crowd. The Wolverine men's basketball team stormed back from a 17-point deficit in the second half to top Rochester College in the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference Tournament Championship game.
The Wolverines tied the game late in regulation and forced overtime, where UM-Dearborn took control for an 86-78 win to capture the team's first ever WHAC Tournament title.
The WHAC Tournament championship is the first for any UM-Dearborn program since the school joined the conference. With the win, the Wolverines receive an automatic bid to the NAIA Division II Men's Basketball National Tournament, another first for the Wolverines.
Additionally, the Wolverines move to 21-12 overall this season, eclipsing the program record for wins in a season set by last year's team.
"I have dreamed of taking this program to nationals to compete since the day I took the job," UM-Dearborn Head Coach Taylor Langley said. "It is an amazing feeling to realize that it is actually happening."
Much like the first round of the tournament, it seemed not to be the Wolverine's night. Down six at the half, UM-Dearborn saw Rochester extend its lead to 17 at 57-40 with 11:41 to play. The Wolverine rally started with six straight points from junior Xavier Crofford(JR/Detroit, MI).
Rochester's Justin Nafso hit a jumper with 5:39 to play to put the Warriors up 65-51, but UM-Dearborn scored the next 14 points to tie the game at 65-65. The run included seven points from senior Jason Penn (SR/Detroit, MI), the reigning WHAC Player of the Week, while Cody Kegley (SO/Yale, MI) hit an off-balance 3-pointer with 1:23 to go, cutting the deficit to two.
After Rochester got a layup from Armand Cartwright, Kegley came up big again. He forced a foul on an inbound play with 5.7 seconds left and calmly went to the line to hit a pair of free throws, sending the game to overtime.
The Wolverine momentum continued into the extra session with UM-Dearborn scoring the first seven points, including a critical 3-pointer from senior Gage Throgmorton (SR/White Lake, MI). Crofford and Kegley each went 4-of-4 at the line in overtime to secure the win.
Penn led the Wolverines with 20 points and 14 rebounds for a double-double, while Kegley added 16 points. Crofford recorded 15 points and Throgmorton hit three 3-pointers to score 11 points.
UM-Dearborn shot 28-of-63 from the field, 7-of-22 from deep and 23-of-32 from the line, while outrebounding the Warriors 42-38.
The 2018 NAIA Division II Men's Basketball National Tournament bracket will be announced at 6 pm Wednesday. The event will take place March 7-13 at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D.
WHAC Postseason Tournament (Higher seed hosts)
Quarterfinals, Wednesday, Feb. 21
No. 1 Cornerstone def. No. 8 Concordia, 78-62
No. 2 Indiana Tech def. No. 7 Siena Heights, 89-69
No. 6 Rochester def. No. 3 Aquinas, 71-65
No. 4 UM-Dearborn def. No. 5 Madonna, 80-78
Semifinals, Saturday, Feb. 24
No. 4 UM-Dearborn def. No. 1 Cornerstone 90-89 (OT)
No. 6 Rochester def. No. 2 Indiana Tech 84-68
Championship, Monday, Feb. 26
No. 4 UM-Dearborn def. No. 6 Rochester 86-78 (OT)