By Jeremy Jordan
On what was an extremely emotional day, the University of Mary Washington men’s basketball team played with true passion and was able to hold off a furious rally from the Wesley College Wolverines to get the win.
On Sunday, both the men’s and women’s teams dedicated their games to the late Erin Peterson. Peterson was a killed in the Virginia Tech shootings in April. She was a high school classmate of Katie Clarkin and Matt Hale. Both UMW teams came out wearing t-shirts with “In Loving Memory: Erin Peterson” on the front.
Hale poured in 15 clutch points while playing for his former classmate.
“She was a great girl, and both the men’s and women’s teams wanted to come out and play a good game for her,” said Hale of his late friend.
That energy and emotion was present from the start. Senior forward Jon Pierce put home a lay-up and followed that up with a straight away three-pointer on the next trip to help the Eagles jump out to an early 7-2 lead.
Early in the game Coach Ron Wood decided to substitute all five of his starters, a move that confused many fans in attendance.
When asked about Wood’s unorthodox substitution policy, Sophomore center Brandon Altmann first laughed before explaining that this was Coach Wood’s new strategy implemented a few games ago.
“Really he just wants to wear out the other team while he gets us some rest, and he tells them to just go crazy, ‘controlled chaos’, he calls it,” said Altmann.
The Eagles continued to build their lead as Justin Baker hit three first half three-pointers extending Mary Washington’s lead to 16. The Wolverines began to chip away until Wesley Junior forward Cody White made the mistake of galvanizing the Eagles.
Soon after sophomore guard Ben Stokes, and Hale connected on back to back three-pointers making the Eagle lead 21.
Wesley Junior guard Rashawn Johnson hit a three from the right baseline for three of his game-high 21 points, to close the lead to 45-31 at the half.
As the teams left the court Wood pointed up at the scoreboard in an attempt to get the official’s attention. The fouls were 10 to 3 for the Eagles.
“I didn’t think that it was that different as far as the fouls go. I thought that they were playing as aggressive as we were,” Wood said of the officiating,
The second half saw the Wolverines come out firing as they continued to cut into the lead. Wood attributed the difference between the two halves to many factors.
“The energy level wasn’t as high, but you can’t expect that high an energy level for forty minutes,” said Wood. “If you’re playing any sport, it’s hard to play at the highest levels for the given amount of time.”
He also added that Wesley probably “got a good lecture” during the halftime break and that the Eagles’ “execution wasn’t as good during the second half.”
Wesley cut the Eagles lead down to just two at 71-69 with sophomore center Khyle Nelson grabbing rebounds and scoring points in the paint.
Hale had the answer as another three-pointer from the left side was pure giving the Eagles a five-point cushion.
“I had to make up for the first half. Coach keeps preaching to all of us that you gotta shoot with confidence,” said Hale. “The only way you can make a shot is if you shoot it.”
The Eagle lead grew with strong inside play by Altmann.
“In the first half I felt that I had an advantage height-wise and size-wise so down the stretch I knew that we needed to get some key buckets so I just decided to step up,” said Altmann.
That 7-0 run gave the Eagles an 80-71 lead and putting the game out of reach for the wolverines. When the final buzzer sounded the Eagles sealed their 83-74 victory.
The Eagles are now 9-5 with a 5-2 record in the CAC. The conference is wide open this year.
“There are one of seven teams that could win the conference. It’s just pretty even across the board,” sai Wood. “We have a chance at the number one seed, and we have a chance at 7th.”
On this day, though the Eagles came out on top; Hale summed it up best,
“Today was Erin’s day.”