On Saturday night in the John W. Hart Building, the men’s competitive basketball championship went down. The Hurricanes defeated the Wildcats, 85-84.
The Hurricanes came out hot, going on a 13-2 run in the first four minutes of the game, capped off with a fadeaway jumper by McKay Shippen, who exited the game shortly afterward with an injury.
The Hurricanes led by nine with 3:52 left in the first quarter before the Wildcats went on a 10-5 run. The Hurricanes led going into the second quarter 27-21.
In the second quarter, the Hurricanes increased their lead after Tyler Shippen made a pull-up 3-pointer. They led 33-21.
Again, the Wildcats answered, scoring 10 straight points to make it a two-point game. Tyler Shippen then scored five straight of his own.
Wildcat Konnor Jackson and Hurricane Abraham Kenter, starting centers for their respective teams, both picked up their third foul in the last few minutes of the second quarter.
The Hurricanes lead at halftime, 50-47.
The third quarter was back and forth. Early in the quarter, Wildcat Matthew Rapp hit a 3-pointer to give the Wildcats their first lead of the game, 53-52.
Hurricane Bryn Nelson grabbed the lead back with a 3-pointer of his own, making it 59-58 with 3:44 left in the quarter.
After the third quarter ended, the Wildcats led 67-65. The lead changed hands eleven times in the third quarter.
The fourth quarter started with a plethora of fouls. The Hurricanes committed four fouls in the first 33 seconds of the quarter, putting the Wildcats in the double bonus early on.
Hurricane Braden Bradshaw scored six straight for his team, and the Hurricanes led 71-67 with 6:40 left in the fourth.
Wildcat Konnor Jackson hit three free throws and tied the game at 71.
Tyler Shippen made a driving layup while being fouled and made the free throw, giving the Hurricanes a three-point lead.
Rapp hit another 3-pointer and tied the game at 77-77.
Tyler Shippen scored again to regain the lead. Jackson made a free throw, cutting the Hurricanes lead down to one, 79-78.
Tyler Shippen answered again with a driving floater, stretching his team’s lead to four points with 1:18 left. The Hurricanes got a defensive stop, and Tyler Shippen made a midrange jumper as he was falling to the ground to give the Hurricanes an 84-78 lead.
Rapp was fouled on a 3-point attempt and made all three free throws. A few seconds later, a five-second violation was called on the Hurricanes, giving the ball back to the Wildcats with 25.9 seconds remaining.
Rapp missed a three, and Bradshaw got the rebound for the Hurricanes. He was fouled immediately and made one of his two free throws, giving the Hurricanes an 85-81 lead.
The Hurricanes made key defensive plays in the final 15 seconds of the game, not getting a steal, but killing the clock until there were just five seconds remaining. Rapp made a 3-pointer in the final seconds, but it was not enough.
The Hurricanes celebrated as champions after defeating the Wildcats by one point.
Tyler Shippen and Bradshaw each scored 24 points for the Hurricanes and were their team’s leading scorers. Tyler Shippen spoke on his clutch performance late in the fourth quarter and how the Hurricanes were able to outlast the Wildcats.
“Everybody was dead,” Tyler Shippen said. “It was a marathon at the end. We tried to play the best defense we could, took the looks when they were there. I had a few good drives, but other than that it was keeping the intensity and talking on defense.”
Guard Nelson was a steadying force for the Hurricanes on offense in the first half. He discussed what he and his team did when shots weren’t falling early in the game.
“All of our boys were going down, so we had to step up and play through it,” Nelson said. “I saw opportunity to take it to the hole hard. I’m not a very big guy, but when I see a lane I take it. I usually get hit, but someone has to step up there.”
For the Wildcats, the most consistent offensive players were Jackson and Rapp. Jackson scored 29 points in the game, and Rapp poured in another 21 points and five assists. Hurricane coach, Daniel Fisher, mentioned what the Hurricanes did to try to slow Jackson and Rapp down.
“Our goal going into the game was to not let (Jackson) into the paint,” Fisher said. “He was doing an excellent job at getting around our guys, though.”
The Hurricanes had a different strategy for guarding Rapp.
“Matt (Rapp) is a fantastic shooter, very hard to guard,” Fisher said. “We were just able to stay in front of him, try not foul him and to get a hand up when he was shooting. We had McKay (Shippen) on him at the beginning of the game, but then he got hurt, and so Tyler (Shippen) was the one to guard him.”
Four different players left the game at various times to tend injuries, and Coach Fisher spoke on the physicality of the game and how the Hurricanes overcame injuries and fouls.
“We had both of our guards on the bench get hurt, and we had two of our bigs foul out so we only had one guy on the bench,” Fisher said. “But the guys that were in were able to stay out of fouls and play hard. We have guards that are able to get around almost any defender in the open court, so I just trusted my guys and they were able to do it.”
During halftime, awards were given to players in the men’s league. Wildcat Matthew Rapp took home the MVP award. He led the league in points and assists this season, averaging over 20 points and 8 assists a game. Tyler Shippen was the recipient of the Finals MVP award after his game-changing fourth-quarter performance.
To watch the video of the championship game, click here.