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Tourney Run Ends in Fort Wayne

The final horn sounded at 9:32 p.m. and ended the finest season of Wabash basketball in 40 years.

A majority of the last 40 minutes of the 2021-22 season seemed almost uncharacteristic from a Little Giant squad that entered the national semifinals of the NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball Tournament with a 24-game win streak, a pair of conference titles, and four monumental victories along its tourney path.

Admittedly, much of the credit for that feeling goes to Elmhurst University (27-6), who defeated Wabash, 90-68, to advance to Saturday’s national championship game.

Head Coach Kyle Brumett hugs his son, Monte, prior to Friday's game.“Credit to them,” Wabash head coach Kyle Brumett said of the 16th-ranked Bluejays. “Things kind of snowballed. They just kept putting pressure on us.”

For a team averaging better than 92 points per game entering the contest in Fort Wayne, Indiana, everything was a struggle offensively for the Little Giants. The 68 points scored was the team’s second-lowest output of the season and its field goal percentage (23-of-66/.348) was a season low.

Wabash (28-4) connected on only 4-of-its-first-16 shots from the floor in a contest it never led. Such a tough outing in the DIII Final Four is a tough pill to swallow.

“It’s a big stage, and we sped ourselves up,” Brumett said. “It was mostly just the emotion of the game. I never felt like we settled in.”

Wabash’s senior class saw their college careers end in front of 4,990 fans, many of them clad in scarlet, much like the support that followed the team to tournament stops in Atlanta and Bloomington, Illinois.

“It's easy to remember how many people drove to Atlanta to watch us and how many people followed us to Bloomington,” he said. “We have special guys, and people appreciate what they are doing. Winning 24 games in a row brought us together.”

Those four seniors – Jack Davidson, Tyler Watson, Kellen Schreiber, and Jack Hegwood – combined for 48 of Wabash’s 68 points Friday and, more importantly re-established what could be possible within the program as it looked to match the 1982’s teams run to the national championship.

Here is what this team accomplished this season:

  • 28-4 record: the most wins in school history
  • 24-game winning streak: the longest in modern school history, surpassing the 19-game streak in 1982Tyler Watson '22 scored 14 points in his final collegiate game.
  • North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) regular season championship (16-1)
  • NCAC Tournament Champions
  • Three 1,000-point scorers (Davidson/Watson/Schreiber): 5,111 combined career points from the senior class
  • First Wabash team to make the NCAA Division III Tournament since 1998
  • First Wabash team to make the NCAA Division III Final Four since the 1982
  • Wabash defeated more nationally ranked teams in this year’s NCAA Division III tournament than any other team (No. 21 Berry, No. 12 Emory, No. 22 Williams, and No. 7 Illinois Wesleyan). Two of those wins came in true road games.

“Cherish every moment,” said Davidson, a two-time All-American and the school’s all-time leading scorer. “You can look at all the on-the-court moments, but it's the off-the-court moments that I'm gonna miss the most. Right now, it sucks because you look back, and I'm not going to be able to go on another road trip and spend that time with the guys.”

Even though the night was tinged with disappointment, Watson knows the life lessons are worth it.

“I'll be alright,” he said. “I've been disappointed before and I’ve found ways to succeed. That's why 10 times out of 10, I would do it all over again.”

Jack Davidson '22 capped his career as the program's all-time leader in points scored (2,464), scoring average (22.4 ppg), free throws made (718), and games played and starts (110).That attitude has helped change expectations within the program and a reassessment of what is possible. Through hard work, focus, and togetherness this group of Little Giants made conference championships and deep tournament runs feel within their grasp.

“This is a special place,” Brumett said of the campus he’s coached at for eight seasons. “I'm really proud that so many people got to see that. Much of tonight is not going to leave us anytime soon.

“We'll be different because these guys are different,” the coach concluded with a nod to the program-changing seniors beside him. “I don't know if we'll ever be like we are now, but we'll find a way to stay good.”