Warhawks stun No. 1 Pointers
From Dick to Jack to Nick, the last name of Bennett has been basketball royalty in Stevens Point and a royal pain to UW-Whitewater for 30 years.
Ironically, it took a Bennett to spoil No. 1-ranked UW-Stevens Point's undefeated season Wednesday evening.
With UW-Whitewater men's basketball coach Pat Miller unable to coach after having cervical neck surgery, former Pointer standout and Warhawk assistant coach Nick Bennett handed his alma mater and No. 1-ranked UW-Stevens Point an 81-76 overtime loss at Kachel Gym.
Quardell Young had a team-high 19 points, while Eric Bryson had 17 and Reggie Hearn and KJ Evans had 16 and 15, respectively, to help Whitewater (18-3, 9-3) to spoil the Pointers undefeated season
“I was just relaying what coach Miller's message would have been to the team,” Bennett said. “I didn't do anything special; we didn't change our offense or do anything special defensively. It was about the players make the plays to win.”
Bennett, however, admitted it was strange coaching against the Pointers.
“I don't know if you could draw it up like that with Point being the No. 1-team in the country and my alma mater,” Bennett said. “But it didn't matter who we were playing. We had a job to do and do it well.”
The Warhawks certainly didn't let their young coach down.
With both teams exchanging leads in overtime, Whitewater finally got the upper hand with a minute to play on two KJ Evans' free throws that gave his team a 77-76 lead.
Evans later sank two more free throws to give Point one more chance to tie the game down 79-76 with 20 seconds to play.
But Tyler Tillema's off-balance 3-pointer with five seconds left sailed wide and gave Whitewater the ball to seal the victory.
“It was a great game for the fans with both teams playing at a high level at points in the game,” Stevens Point head coach Bob Semling said. “They found it in the first half and we found it to start the second half and then it was just a battle and a great game. This game was so great for our conference.”
Semling had a front-row seat for the whole game, including down the stretch of regulation when Young split the lane and went in for a layup and foul with 13 seconds left. Young missed the free throw, giving Point a chance to break the 69-69 tie. But instead of calling time out off the missed free throw, Semling elected to have his team play on, which resulted in a Joe Ritchay off-balance 3-pointer that missed the rim at the buzzer.
“We rarely call time out to draw something up because when you have guys like Tyler Tillema, we get much better shots if we let them play,” Semling said. “If we call time out, they go zone and trap, so it's a chess match.”
Whitewater looked like it was about to call checkmate in the first half after storming out to a 39-27 lead at halftime, thanks to Elkhorn High graduate Bryson's 12 points.
Stevens Point, behind a 12-1 run at the start of the second half, tied the game at 40. The game remained a back-and-forth battle the rest of the way until Whitewater finally got the upper hand in overtime.
“There definitely was a lot of momentum going on for us,” Young said. “We definitely wanted to make coach proud and we took advantage of the opportunities and were confident in each other and coach.”
WHITEWATER 81, STEVENS POINT 76 (OT)
Stevens Point (76)—Ryf, 0-0-0; Tillema, 8-1-19; Hass, 2-4-10; Ritchay, 6-3-18; Heuer, 3-3-9; Lutz, 0-1-1; Pelkofer, 5-0-11; Richard, 3-2-8. Totals: 27-14-76.
Whitewater (81)—Merg, 0-4-4; Young, 8-0-19; Evans, 3-8-15; Hearn, 7-2-16; Bryson, 7-1-17; Souter, 1-0-2; Egan, 4-0-8. Totals: 30-15-81.
Stevens Point 27 42 7—76
Whitewater 39 30 12-81
Three-point goals—Stevens Point 8 (Tillema 2, Haas 2, Ritchay 3, Pelkofer), Whitewater 6 (Young 3, Evans, Bryson 2). Rebounds—Stevens Point 32 (Heuer 9), Whitewater 23 (Evans 6). Assists—Stevens Point 9 (Tillema, Ritchay, Pelkofer, 2 each), Whitewater 10 (Young 4). Total fouls—Stevens Point 17, Whitewater 17. Fouled out—Ritchay.