WILMINGTON — For the second time in less than a week, the Wilmington College women’s basketball team (17-9) will head north to Berea to face Baldwin Wallace.
This time, though, the stakes are much higher than a regular season matchup.
With Wilmington’s victory over Mount Union Tuesday, 67-52, the Fightin’ Quakers punched their ticket for the semi-finals contest. The reward, go play the team that just defeated you in the regular season finale last Saturday.
Wilmington will play Baldwin Wallace 6 p.m. Thursday in one of the Ohio Athletic Conference semifinal games. Ohio Northern will host Marietta Thursday in the other semifinal.
The OAC championship game is set for 3 p.m. Saturday at the site of the highest remaining seed.
For the Fightin’ Quakers and Yellow Jackets, the meeting Thursday is the rubber match, if you will. Each posted victories on their home courts during the regular season — WC 58-53 at Raizk Arena on Jan. 7 and BW 61-54 on its home floor just five days ago.
“They beat us because they were better than us that day,” WC coach Jerry Scheve said. “We just have to better than them Thursday. I think we can be.”
The Yellow Jackets’ seven point victory was huge because it gave them the No. 2 seed in the tournament and the accompanying double-bye into Thursday’s game. Wilmington ended up with the No. 3 seed and a single bye. More importantly, BW earned the right to host the Thursday.
“We just have to come ready to play,” said Scheve.
Easier said than done. Mackenzie Campbell said the Fightin’ Quakers “didn’t really come out to play” in Saturday’s game against BW. Teammate Savannah Hooper said, though, there would be no carry over from that experience.
“Each day is a new game,” she said.
Call it motivation, redemption, incentive, or whatever kind of word describes the meaning of this game for Scheve’s 2016-2017 team, the mission is plain and simple — win. They must find a way to get a victory, or else go home, turn in the uniforms and await another season.
Nothing in life comes easy and Scheve can probably fall back on that phrase, among many others, to motivate his team for this showdown Thursday. Watching this squad throughout the year via my courtside seat as public address announcer, I have seen this squad find many ways to deal with adversity.
If they need a clutch basket, they seem to get it. If they need a crucial rebound, they fight for it, and if there is a loose ball, they will dive to the floor to retrieve it.
“We’re fighters,” Hooper said. “We’ll fight the whole … .”
“The Fightin’ Quakers,” Campbell and Hooper said in unison as they turned and smiled at each other.
They will need some luck, but desire is an intangible factor which is hard to measure; coach Scheve’s squad will have to reach back for something extra Thursday.
If they do, they may just find a way to secure victory 18 and advance to Saturday’s OAC championship game.
Bill Liermann covers college and high school sports for the News Journal. Follow him on Twitter @lierjet