The No. 4 Wolverines needed another magical comeback on Monday night to top No. 6 Rochester College in the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference Tournament championship game.
And they pulled it off.
After erasing a 14-point deficit with just over four minutes with a 16-2 run, the Wolverines forced overtime where they cruised to defeat No. 6 Rochester College, 86-67, to earn its first WHAC Tournament Championship and an automatic bid to the NAIA tournament.
Senior Jason Penn didn’t lose hope, even when down late in regulation.
“We clawed and fought our way back through, because we knew that it was our time,” Penn said.
“It was our championship to win.”
UM-Dearborn (21-12) went into halftime down by six at 37-31, but Rochester (18-15) took a commanding 17-point lead in the opening minutes of the second half.
With precious seconds ticking off the clock, the Wolverines needed to cover a 14-point deficit with 4:41 left in regulation to keep their season alive.
The Wolverines scored 14 straight points in the next four minutes to tie the game at 65-65, led by Penn with seven points in that time. He finished with a game-high 20 points and 14 rebounds.
“Our team has always been a second half team,” Penn said. “For some reason, we never come out to really play until the end when it’s basically life or death.”
Rochester scored on a layup with nine seconds left, which left the Wolverines needing a pair to force overtime.
Guard Cody Kegley delivered, knocking down two of the biggest free throws of the season with three seconds left to send the game to overtime.
UM-Dearborn outscored Rochester 19-11 to secure the tournament championship.
Coach Taylor Langley had tears in his eyes when speaking of his team’s resolve.
“I got a group of guys that believe in me—that believe in each other—and I believe in them,” he said. “It’s amazing what can happen when people work hard out of love and joy for each other.”
Since taking over the men’s basketball team, Langley has led the Wolverines to the winningest seasons in program history. Now, he has a banner to hang in the newly remodeled Fieldhouse gym.
“When you set out for this, you have a vision… I really thought we could win a championship here at UM-Dearborn,” he said.
“Back when we had a rubber court, brown bleachers and all that stuff—I believed before all that.”
- Rochester was led by Justin Nafso’s 18-point performance. He played a game-high 45 minutes in the contest.
- Cody Kegley had four steals in the game, leading the Wolverines’ defensive efforts.
- Rochester attempted just two free throws in the entire game, missing both. UM-Dearborn went 23-32 from the line.