For the fifth time this season, the Wilmington College women’s basketball team will face a nationally-ranked opponent.
If they want to earn a berth to the NCAA Division III national tournament, they’ll have to register a win over a top 25 team for the first time in 2016-17.
Wilmington will travel to Ada Saturday to face fifth-ranked Ohio Northern in the Ohio Athletic Conference championship game. Tip-off is set for 3 p.m. The winner earns the OAC’s automatic berth to the NCAA tournament.
“We just have to go out and play our game and play with confidence,” said WC head coach Jerry Scheve. “And I think we’re doing that right now.”
The Fightin’ Quakers advanced to the tournament title game with a 62-59 win Thursday at Baldwin-Wallace.
“I’d say our win last night was a quality win, although not against a ranked team,” Scheve said.
Wilmington is playing in its first OAC championship game since 2008. Wilmington is 21-9 all-time in OAC tournament history, including going 4-2 in championship games.
The Polar Bears have won 12 of the last 13 meetings with the Fightin’ Quakers.
Ohio Northern was nearly bumped out of the tournament Thursday when a pesky Marietta team pushed the Polar Bears to the limit before falling 61-60. Just five days earlier, ONU manhandled Marietta 82-43.
Ohio Northern had another close game on Feb. 15 at Otterbein, 63-59. Include a 60-55 win over Baldwin-Wallace and the Polar Bears have had a handful of tight finishes.
But the Polar Bears 26-0 record also has more than its share of blowouts – 13 of the wins have been by 20 or more points and three were by 30 or more points.
Wilmington (18-9 overall) is 0-4 this season against nationally-ranked teams, and that includes an 0-2 mark against Ohio Northern. WC lost 78-51 at home to then No. 14 Ohio Northern. On Jan. 25, WC lost on a last-second shot to the No. 7 Polar Bears at Fred Raizk Arena, 62-61.
“I think the key is we know we can play with these teams.” said Scheve.
Scheve said his squad had played ONU tough in three of the four halves this season. WC trailed by two at halftime in the game in Ada but then missed its first 12 shots to start the second half and never recovered.
The other losses to ranked teams are a 63-56 loss to No. 18 Carnegie Mellon on Nov. 19 and a 61-59 defeat at the hands of No. 4 Thomas More on Dec. 21.
“All five teams were undefeated when we played them,” Scheve pointed out. “Four times they still were (unbeaten) after.
“There’s nothing major we have to do different. We just have to go out and do what we do. We were in position to win several of those games in the last couple minutes. We just have to learn how to close out the game against quality opponents.”
Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, or on Twitter @wnjsports