And it’s on to the Cardinals first NCAA Division II Regional Final! Wheeling Jesuit put together a 24-5 run starting with 10 minutes left and surged past Shippensburg, 97-91, in the Atlantic Regional Semifinals Sunday.
Trailing 78-68 at 10:07, the Cardinals (25-7) netted the next seven points between a Haywood Highsmith dunk and steal he took coast-to-coast and passed toPreston Boswell for a fast break trey and the rally was on. With Shippensburg (26-4) ahead 83-80, WJU continued its quest with a 10-0 run and eventual victory.
“It was a hard fought game. I was up late in the night watching Shippensburg. They are hard to guard and very efficient in every area from shooting to passing to rebounding,” said WJU head coach Danny Sancomb. “I am proud of our guys and talk all the time on fighting and battling. Preston (Boswell) dove late and tipped it to Pat (Moseh) and we got a basket out of it.”
The Cardinals victory sends them to their first Atlantic Regional Final and appearance in the NCAA Division II Sweet 16. WJU has a day off before it plays either top-seeded Fairmont State or No. 4 IUP on Tuesday night, March 14, in Fairmont State’s Joe Retton Arena. Tip is set for 7:30 p.m.
“That’s what we came down here to do (have an opportunity to go to the Elite Eight),” noted Sancomb.
Highsmith led all scorers with 26 points on 10 of 13 shooting, including a career-high four 3-pointers on five tries. He also grabbed seven rebounds, stole three passes, assisted on two and blocked one attempt.
Boswell came off the Cardinals bench for another big game. The freshman poured in 21 points on 7 of 9 shots and 6 of 6 from the foul line.
Moseh posted the lone WJU double-double of 17 points and 10 rebounds to go with three assists.
Jarin Hilson downed five first-half treys for 15 points.
“Haywood really showed his skill set today. Jarin bounced back today with a big first half. Preston is just a ball of energy as we wind him up and just let him go,” said Sancomb. “Pat just tries so hard we had to sit him down and let him catch his breath and he was clutch down the final minutes for us.”
The Raiders All-American Dustin Sleva contributed 22 points, six boards and six assists.
After the Cardinals led 48-44 at intermission, the Raiders stormed out of the locker room. Ship scored 14 of the game’s first 16 second-half points and opened a 58-50 lead. The Raiders pushed the margin to 15 points, 71-56 with 12:55 remaining.
Following a WJU timeout, the Cardinals quickly put seven points in a minute on the board off a Moseh layup and three-point play with a Boswell mid-range jumper sandwiched between for a 71-63 game.
“We called a timeout, but our main thing was to get some stops. Haywood did a good job on Sleva down the stretch and our energy was key. They made some tough shots, but we wanted to keep wearing them down,” explained the Cardinals coach. “They are very good in the half court and we did well with our spacing finding teammates. We were crisp with our passes to get good looks against a team that doesn’t give good looks to you.”
Ship continued to lead by double-digits, 78-68, before WJU’s game-deciding surge over the final 10 minutes of action.