The seventh seeded Heidelberg University men’s basketball team began a long road to the finals of the Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament in Ada, Ohio against the Polar Bears of Ohio Northern University. With a 79-71 loss to the Polar Bears, that road ends in Ada.
The Berg split their two regular season contests with Ohio Northern, dropping their home matchup, 76-68 but defeating the Polar Bears in Ada, 82-74. The postseason goes to the Polar Bears.
Senior guard Dane Givner (Pittsbrugh, PA./Harvest Prep) led the Berg with ten points at the half. Givner finished with 19 points to lead the Berg, while tallying seven rebounds, one assist and a team-leading three steals.
Senior big man Nate Davis (Dayton/Stivers) recorded his 21st career double-double with 16 points and 18 rebounds but struggled from the free throw line. Davis also collected a game-high six blocks, in the loss.
Besides Givner and Davis, the other three Heidelberg starters hit double figures against the Polar Bears.
Junior Mike Petrie (Columbus/Beechcroft) scored 12 for the Berg along with freshmen Jackson Blue (West Chester/Lakota West) and Ishaam Smith Jr. (Richmond Heights) dropping 11 and ten respectively.
“It was a tough loss,” said fifth year head coach Anthony Gholson. “We didn’t shoot free throws well, we gave up turnovers and we didn’t rebound all that well and despite these errors, we were still in it for most of the game,” said Gholson.
Ohio Northern’s Jared Horstman had a career night against the Berg leading all scorers with 30 points. His 30 against the Student Princes is a career-high.
The Berg trailed a majority of the first half until the Student Princes began an 11-3 run spanning 4:15. A three-pointer from Ohio Northern’s Greg Pennington would end the Berg comeback with 1:27 left to play in the first half.
With Ohio Northern leading 31-30 at the 1:27 mark, the Polar Bears would extend their lead to three points twice before a buzzer beating three-pointer from Givner tied the game, 35-35 at halftime.
The Polar Bears roared out of the locker room with a 12-6 run in the first 4:00 of the second half extending their advantage to 47-41.
With the Berg trailing eight with 10:44 left to play, a Jackson Blue foul sent Ohio Northern’s Dominique Royal to the line for one and one. The Polar Bear did not connect on the first giving way to a Heidelberg offensive run.
A successful free throw from Givner and jumper from Ishaam Smith Jr. cut the ONU lead to five with 10:14 left on the clock. Smith, who was fouled in the act of shooting, connected on the free throw converting the three-point play.
Over the next two minutes, Heidelberg managed to pull within one of the Polar Bears, 56-55. At the 6:08 mark in the second half, a Givner layup brought the game to a tie once again at 60-60.
Ohio Northern led by two at the 3:00 mark, 66-64, before a Jared Horstman layup extended the Polar Bear lead to four.
The Heidelberg bench was served a technical foul with 1:48 remaining in the game earning Ohio Northern two free throws. The Polar Bears connected on both extending their lead to 70-64.
The Polar Bears would go on a 9-5 run to end the game, earning seven of their nine points at the charity stripe.
“I think that if we would have played as well as we did and improved upon our rebounding, turnovers and free throw shooting, it could have been a different ball game,” said Gholson.
“The off season really starts now for the underclassmen and returning players; not in the fall," said Gholson. “The guys that will return next year need to understand what this feeling of loss is and if they can internalize it, they can use it productively heading into the off season and next year.”
With their victory, the Polar Bears will travel to Wilmington College to continue their OAC Tournament.