Down by 13 with just 3:30 left to keep the season alive, the University of Michigan-Dearborn men’s basketball team mounted a frantic comeback to reach the conference tournament semifinal in a win over Madonna University on Wednesday night.
The Wolverines struggled all game long on the defensive side of the ball but ended the game on a 15-0 run to edge the Crusaders, 80-78, in the first round of the WHAC (Wolverine Hoosier Athletic Conference) playoffs.
Wednesday night’s game was the first home playoff game for the Wolverines at the UM-Dearborn Fieldhouse, but the home crowd didn’t have much to get excited about until later in the contest.
UM-Dearborn coach Taylor Langley was just excited to get the win.
“We did not play well tonight,” he said, “but we fought and found a way to win.”
When faced with a 13-point deficit with 5:36 to go in the game, they did not give up. Mafiaion Joyner heated up on both ends of the court, hitting two 3-pointers and a couple layups. Joyner also flew himself into the air and swatted a pass out of the air breaking up an attempt by the Crusaders.
UM-Dearborn whittled the Crusaders’ lead down to just two points with 41.4 seconds to go in the game, trailing 78-76.
Gage Throgmorton was fouled while attempting a 3-pointer and was sent to the free throw line. He hit all three free throws giving the Wolverines their first lead of the game, 79-78, with 26.1 seconds to go.
On the ensuing Crusader possession, they failed to get the ball over the half court line and possession went back to the Wolverines.
Junior Alex Hagel made the defensive rebound for the ages with 8.6 seconds to go, giving the Wolverines the ball back.
Throgmorton would hit one of his two free throws on the next possession after being fouled to give the Wolverines a score of 80-78. Jonathan Swift for the Crusaders tried a last second three pointer but it missed, and the Wolverines got the defensive rebound and the win.
Mafiaion Joyner led the Wolverines with 24 points and 10 rebounds giving him a double-double. He hit three 3-pointers and five of seven from the free throw line. Joyner also had two steals and a huge block in the game.
“Mafiaion has been great all year and came up huge tonight,” Langley said.
Jason Penn finished with 19 points and seven rebounds. He also had two assists, two blocks, and a steal. Xavier Crofford finished with 15 points including going five of seven from the free throw line. Crofford added a rebound and a block.
The Crusaders won the opening tip-off and ran with an early lead to start the contest. Madonna hit seven shots from downtown in the first half, led by Chris Dierker with three 3-pointers.
The Wolverines battled all throughout the first half but could not get shots to fall or stop the Crusaders shots from downtown. The Wolverines battled back strong late in the first half with a 10 point effort from Penn and eight points from Joyner and Cody Kegley.
The Wolverines found themselves down 41-35 going into halftime. The second half saw the intensity pick up by the Wolverines behind stellar performances by Joyner and junior Xavier Crofford.
Crofford kept charging the basket and making shots despite the Crusaders defensive efforts. Crofford scored 15 second half points including making five of seven from the free throw line.
The Wolverines took more chances driving the basket in the second half and found themselves at the line more often. They hit 17 of 22 free throws in the second half.
The win for the Wolverines moves them onto the WHAC semifinals where they will head to No. 1 Cornerstone (28-3) on Saturday. Game time from Grand Rapids is set for 3 p.m.