Wade Steinlage, Assistant Athletic Director for Communications
PERU, Neb. – The William Penn men’s basketball team produced yet another big comeback, but could not finish it off in an 84-82 setback to No. 2 seed Peru State in the Heart of America Athletic Conference Tournament Semifinals Saturday.
Despite the setback, No. 3 seed and No. 16 nationally-ranked WPU (21-11) is still heading to the NAIA Division I National Championships from March 20-26. Top-seeded Benedictine helped out the navy and gold by defeating Clarke in the other semifinal and will host the 24th-ranked Bobcats (22-10) in Tuesday’s championship game. Since one of the top two teams from the regular-season standings will take the tourney crown, William Penn’s top-three finish is the league’s third and final automatic qualification.
WPU will find out who and when it plays at nationals during next Wednesday’s Selection Show at 5 p.m.
Unfortunately, Saturday witnessed yet another tough first half for the Statesmen. The visitors led 16-15 with 11:08 remaining in the stanza, but gave up 12 unanswered points. William Penn eventually went into the locker room down 51-35 as it was outshot 51.4-40.0 percent.
WPU came out of the break a much different team, pulling to within five at 57-52 just 4:54 into the half. Although they never recaptured the edge, the Statesmen stayed within just seven the remainder of the contest.
Down six inside of two minutes remaining, William Penn received buckets from Marlon Alcindor (Sr., Queens, N.Y., Sociology) and Omar Sherman (Sr., Duncanville, Texas, Sociology) to make it a one-possession game with 30 seconds left.
WPU then sent PSC to the line for a one-and-one opportunity. The front-end try was off-line and the Statesmen pulled down the rebound, setting themselves up to tie or win the game. Unfortunately, a driving layup by Shamar Bailey-DeCoteau (Jr., Toronto, Ontario, Undecided) would not drop and the navy and gold were ousted one game shy of the title game for the second year in a row.
At game’s end, the Statesmen were outshot 50.0%-47.0% and outrebounded 35-33. Although they were on the bottom side of the boards battle, they actually owned a 17-8 mark in second-chance points.
The visiting crew also committed four more turnovers than the Bobcats (14-10), but was better at taking advantage with an 11-6 clip in points off turnovers.
Sherman guided his team with 18 points, while Abrian Edwards (Sr., Austin, Texas, Wellness and Recreation) was just one behind his fellow senior teammate with 17 points. Both individuals tallied three assists one game after Edwards broke the single-season school record for assists (now with 229).
Alcindor and Darius Wheeler (Sr., Jonesboro, Ga., Sports Administration) hit the double-digit mark as well with 14 points apiece.
Bailey-DeCoteau and Eddie Daley( So., DeWitt, Mich., Sports Management) added six points each in the setback.
Neither side was terribly strong at the line, but WPU was a bit better at 66.7% (12-for-18). Peru State held the edge from behind the arc, 33.3%-30.8%.
“We got in a hole that we was just too big to get out of,” Head Coach John Henry said. “We unfortunately ran out of time to come all the way back.”
“We are excited to return to nationals,” Henry added. “It is always a lot of fun playing in Kansas City.”