Reserve Guards Owens, Rooks Spark Wabash Comeback

by Howard W. Hewitt

February 8, 2006

The Little Giant moniker has perhaps never been more appropriate than it was Wednesday night at Chadwick Court. Reserve guards Jimmy Owens and Earl Rooks sparked Wabash College to an improbable 72-66 overtime NCAC win against Earlham.

Trailing by 10 points with 10:56 to play, Coach Mac Petty had seen about enough of his starters for the night. "The first group wasn’t doing anything," Petty said. "If we’re going to lose we might as well lose with some guys who are going to try to do something." (See game photo album.)

So at 9:25, Petty inserted starter Gary Simkus and reserves Ryan Stephens, Kyle Coffey along with Owens and Rooks. The energy level picked up appreciably and immediately. The unlikely bench combo stormed back and tied the game at 48-all with 4:02 to play but could never take the lead. Then with nine seconds to play, the Quakers’ LaRon Henry hit a free throw to extend the Earlham lead to 61-58 but he missed the second.

"Coffey grabbed the rebound and gave it to me," Owens recalled of the final seconds of regulation. "I looked up at the clock and there was well under 10 seconds so I took a couple of dribbles and pulled up and hoped for the best.

"I kept it in my mind that I could make that shot so I took it and it went in."

The three-pointer at the top of the circle sent the Chadwick Crazies into delirium and completed the bench-inspired comeback. In overtime, it was the diminutive Rooks providing the spark with a three-pointer at 2:09 from the corner, 66-64, to give the Little Giants a lead they would never relinquish.

"We just had to step in and do the job," said Rooks, listed generously in the program at 5-feet, 8-inches. "The starters have done the job for us all year so we just had to come off the bench and help them out this time."

Coffey, the biggest man on the Wabash roster, took over the rest of the way. He claimed two rebounds, two baskets and two free throws in the final two minutes to seal the win.

"I didn’t win this game," Petty said, who admitted the win might have been one of the most improbable in his long Wabash career. "I didn’t have anything to do with it. They just didn’t want to lose and they did a great job. The guys off the bench just did a super job."

The win was not only exciting but important. Wabash and Earlham were locked in a tie for fourth place in the North Coast Athletic Conference standings prior to the game with 7-5 records. The Little Giant win gives Wabash a leg up on the fourth spot and a chance to host a first-round NCAC playoff game. The Little Giants are now 14-8 while Earlham drops to10-12.

Energy was the main ingredient in the Wabash win, but rebounding was the foundation for this victory. The Little Giants owned the boards with a 40-27 advantage but impressively dominated the offensive glass with a 15-6 edge.

Caleb Lyttle and Gary Simkus led Wabash with 15 each and 9 and 8 rebounds, respectively. Rooks finished with 8, Owens 7, and Coffey 9 points.

Henry led Earlham with 23 points, Brandon Miller scored 13 before fouling out in overtime, and Markous Jewett added 12.

Wabash travels to Div. III top-ranked Wooster Saturday afternoon, then returns Feb. 15 for the season’s final regular season home game to play Wittenberg.

Hewitt is Wabash College's Director of New Media/Web Editor.

In photos:

Top right: Rooks scores an acrobatic layin during the overtime.

At left: Coffey hits an important free throw.

On home page: Owens scores on a driving layup.

On sports home: The Chadwick Crazies help celebrate the comeback win.




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