By Tim Glon
ADA — Sophomore Ryan Bruns (Chickasaw/Marion Local) scored a career-high 29 points to lead the Ohio Northern men's basketball team in a tough 72-71 loss to Baldwin Wallace in the quarterfinals of the 2017 Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament on Tuesday night at the ONU Sports Center.
The third-seeded Polar Bears end their season with a 16-10 record, while the sixth-seeded Yellow Jackets improve to 14-12 and will host seventh-seeded Muskingum in the semifinals on Thursday.
Bruns had 29 and senior Aron Thress (Lancaster/Amanda Clearcreek) had 12 points to lead ONU.
BW got 18 points from Jay Battle and 16 points from Michael Quiring.
Baldwin Wallace made 14 of its first 30 3-pointers and appeared to have the game in hand with a 56-39 lead two minutes into the second half.
But that's when Ohio Northern extended its defense and began to pound the ball inside to its two big men, Bruns and senior Aron Thress (Lancaster/Amanda Clearcreek).
The duo scored 30 of their combined 41 points in the second half as the Polar Bears battled all the way back to tie the game at 62-all and eventually took a 68-64 lead with 4:46 left to play.
Back-to-back threes by BW gave the visitors a 70-68 lead with 1:51 left and Bruns made one of two free throws with 1:33 to go to make it 70-69.
Thress scored inside with 45 seconds left to put the Polar Bears on top 71-70.
ONU forced a BW miss with 31 seconds left, but ONU turned it over against pressure with 24 ticks to go.
Battle was blocked by Bruns in the lane with 11 seconds remaining, but Jake Featherolf got the putback to give the Yellow Jackets a 72-71 lead with nine seconds to go.
A contested 3-pointer by senior Devon Allen (Lima/Senior) bounced off the iron with two seconds to go and BW rebounded to end the game.
"I'm proud of our guys in the way we battled back," ONU head coach Rich Bensman said. "We did not play well early and dug ourselves a big hole. It took a lot of energy to get back into the game and that made it tough down the stretch. Maybe if we get a lucky bounce here or there it turns out to be a different result. But we did not match their intensity early on and put ourselves in a tough spot.
"But I'm very happy with the way our guys responded all year. Our seniors did a great job of being leaders. Everyone on the team bought in and we had a very good year."