Men’s Basketball Column: Warhawks win, avoid Stevens Point

 

 

March 19, 2014

By Paul Bressler

The NCAA Division-III Tournament is supposed to be set up in a way that each qualifying team plays against a balanced field, but in reality, each team only has to beat the teams put in front of it.

The UW-Whitewater Warhawks did just that by defeating the lesser of two teams Saturday night.

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Paul Bressler, Staff Writer

The Emory Eagles put up a fight, but the ’Hawks took care of business in the second half and ended up winning with a 74-51 final in Stevens Point, Wis.

The victory punched the ’Hawks’ ticket to the Final Four and has the team positioned to bring the title back home.

If that’s the case, the Warhawks may want to seriously consider sending a gift basket, at the very least, to the Eagles for taking out the UW-Stevens Point Pointers.

The Eagles defeated the Pointers in dramatic fashion behind the tremendous play of senior forward Jake Davis.

After trailing the No. 1-ranked Pointers, Davis knotted things up at 64 after his first of two clutch 3-pointers came with only 21 seconds left in regulation.

Davis’ last basket came in overtime with five seconds showing on the clock. His second clutch three proved to be the difference, and an Elite Eight appearance was his.

The irony of it all was the Warhawks did not have to take on the Pointers in Stevens Point, and they also got to beat up on a team that clearly didn’t have anything left the next night.

Although the ’Hawks were coming off a Friday night game themselves, the Warhawks coasted through the Sweet 16 against UT-Dallas 81-63.

None of this will matter if the ’Hawks win it all in Salem. The trophy won’t have an asterisk on it detailing how the team got there.

It will only say the Warhawks are the 2014 D-III Champions, something that nobody will ever be able to take away from them.

Perhaps a bit of karma is coming into play for the Warhawks. After all, the way the tournament is set up the majority of the really good teams are slotted in the same region.

This happens because the good teams typically come from the Midwest and traveling expenses are kept to a minimum.

That being said, this idea for a balanced field is almost non-existent. The best-of-the-best beat up on each other until one team is left standing, on one leg, with a Final Four berth.

The Warhawks managed to fight their way through the politics with a bit of luck and now stand firmly, on two legs, with a legitimate chance to win the whole thing.

The ’Hawks will make their fifth Final Four appearance at 5 p.m. March 21 against the No. 6-ranked Illinois Wesleyan University.

“They’re [IWU] really good,” head coach Pat Miller said. “They were at the Final Four with us in 2012. Ron Rose is a great coach. I know they’re really deep. They have really good inside players. They shoot the ball well and obviously coming out of the CCIW [College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin] they are very battle tested and experienced. That will be a battle. They’re a great team, and we know that.”

The ’Hawks defeated the Titans, 71-65, on Nov. 27, 2012, in Bloomington, Ill., and once again, 65-53, on Nov. 30, 2011, in Whitewater, Wis.

The Warhawks have enjoyed quite a bit of success in their Final Four appearances.

The ’Hawks, who finished fourth in Grand Rapids, Mich. in 1983, returned the next year to win the school’s first title.

In 1989, the ’Hawks won their second championship in Springfield, Ohio.

The school’s most recent title came in the Salem Civic Center and gave the Warhawks their third trophy in 2012.

Junior guard KJ Evans, the team’s leading point producer and rebounder, is at the top of his game and hungry for more.

“It feels great,” Evans said. “The year that they actually won it I transferred in, and I couldn’t be a part of that. For me to finally be a part of something like this is great. This is the best thing that has happened to me from a basketball perspective.”

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