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Quakers to face John Carroll in OAC semifinals

Game tips off 7:30 p.m. Thursday

February 22, 2012

Malcolm Heard II and the Quakers will look to extend their OAC Tournament journey when they face John Carroll in a semifinal game Thursday night.

Malcolm Heard II and the Quakers will look to extend their OAC Tournament journey when they face John Carroll in a semifinal game Thursday night.

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Wilmington College will make its second trip to northeast Ohio in three days when the Quakers play at John Carroll in an Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament semifinal 7:30 p.m. Thursday.

The game will be Web cast live on Wilmington College Sports Network with coverage beginning at 7:15 p.m.

At 14-12, the No. 5 Quakers know the only way to make their second NCAA Tournament appearance in three years is to win two more games — beginning at No. 1 John Carroll.

“Obviously, survive and advance is the mantra at the moment,” Wilmington head coach K.C. Hunt said following his team’s 76-64 quarterfinal win over Baldwin-Wallace Tuesday night.

Wilmington dropped both games to John Carroll (18-6) in the regular season, 82-64 at home and 84-82 in overtime at John Carroll on Feb. 11.

“We had a 14-point lead with 10 minutes to go up there and did not get the job done. We know that we can play with them. We’re going to have to play well. We’re looking forward to the opportunity,” Hunt said.

Thursday’s match-up will feature the OAC’s most aggressive defenses. Wilmington ranks second with 9.3 steals per game while John Carroll averages 10.2 steals per game. The Blue Streaks forced 19 Wilmington turnovers in their most recent win over the Quakers.

“We have to make sure that we are taking care of the basketball,” Hunt said. “Their pressure and denial of entries is a concern. Offensively, they play so fast and have so many good weapons, especially 3-point shooters. We need to do a good job in transition and guarding the 3-point line. If we do that, we will give ourselves a chance to win.”

At the top of John Carroll’s list of weapons is Corey Shontz. The senior guard averages 15.8 points and 4.8 assists per game. He also is among the conference’s 3-point shooting, steals and blocked shots leaders. Senior guard Mark Hester checks in with 12.8 points and six boards per game. The Streaks score OAC-leading 82.7 points per game.

As a team, John Carroll makes conference-high eight 3-pointers a game and also gets to the offensive glass and free throw line more frequently than any other squad.

The Quakers’ defensive effort includes the quick hands of freshman guard R.J. Leppert (Liberty Township/Lakota), who ranks No. 3 in steals. Sophomore forward Malcolm Heard II (Wilmington) is the third-leading shot blocker.

On the offensive end, Heard and senior guard Antonio Bowman (Columbus/Whetstone) both average more than 14 points per game. Bowman has averaged 22.5 points over the last four games. Junior guard Brandon Candella (West Chester/Lakota West) is among the conference leaders in virtually every stat line.

The Quakers will be playing their third game in four days. Hunt said fatigue can put on a jersey, but he doesn’t expect it to be a factor.

“It’s win-or-go-home time, and these guys are hungry enough that I’m not expecting us to be road-weary at all, especially when I’m playing 12 guys a night. I really think we’re going to be fine. We’re in the conference semifinals. There should be plenty of adrenalin,” Hunt said.