For the third time, the top-seeded St. Mary’s Seahawks achieved the Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) Championship title.
On Saturday night, with over 600 fans in attendance, the Seahawks beat #2 Wesley College (17-10) with a decisive 97-65 win.
With this win, the Seahawks (22-5) received an automatic entrance to the 2011 NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball Tournament.
The Seahawks have been to the Sweet Sixteen twice before, in 2008 and 2010, and have a 4-2 record there.
Additionally, this year makes the second consecutive CAC Championship against Wesley, and the second consecutive win.
Though the Seahawks trailed 7-0 for the first four minutes of the game, sophomore guard Chris Hutchinson ended Wesley’s run with a layup four minutes in.
Two minutes later, another layup by Hutchinson tied the game at seven.
At halftime, St. Mary’s led 47-20; during the last ten minutes of the half, the Seahawks went on a 33-6 run.
Though Wesley doubled their points earned in the second half with 45, St. Mary’s was able to maintain their lead and closed the game out with 97-65.
Senior center Sam Burum led the team with a career high of 20 points and seven rebounds and went eight for ten from the field.
Juniors Mikey Fitzpatrick and James Davenport had 13 points each; Fitzpatrick had 2 rebounds and an assist and Davenport had three rebounds and two assists.
Senior guard Alex Franz also had high stats: he ended with 12 points, four assists and four steals.
On Feb. 24, the Seahawks secured their spot in the championships with a 79-57 win against fourth-seeded University of Mary Washington (16-10).
“Every single player raised their game, from centers hitting threes, to point guards throwing down,” first-year James Tomkinson said. “The team gave the fans just what they wanted – a championship win to celebrate.”
Though Mary Washington had a 6-0 start five minutes in, the Seahawks came back with a 13-10 lead.
First-year Christian MacAuley had his third double-double of the season with 13 rebounds – matching his career-high of 18 points on 8-of-9 shooting.
Franz also had 18 points with a game-high seven assists and yet again four steals.
His dunk in the last five minutes of the game was a definite crowd pleaser, according to Tomkinson.
Nine minutes into the game, sophomore guard Devin Spencer hit a three point shot which began the 24-9 run to close out the first half.
At halftime, St. Mary’s was leading 47-27, and shot 55.4 percent from the field during the second half, in addition to their 64 percent in the first half.
This year’s CAC win marks the third by St. Mary’s in a CAC championship game.
In 2008, the Seahawks took home the championship against Mary Washington and lost the NCAA Tournament Sectional Semifinal 82-73 against Millsaps College.
In 2009, St. Mary’s lost 86-81 in overtime against (then fourth-seeded) Marymount University, but in 2010, St. Mary’s again won the CAC Championships.
After this time beating Marymount 95-62 in the semifinals, they took on Wesley College and won the championship 80-76.
In the first round of the NCAA tournament, the Seahawks crushed Purchase College 88-59, and beat Virginia Wesleyan College 72-69 in the second round of the tournament.
Their run ended in the NCAA Sectional Semifinals against Franklin and Marshall College 92-87.
The atmosphere in the arena was intense in this year’s championship game.
“There was so much energy in the stands – everyone was pumped up,” first-year Lauren Taylor said.
“Normally there is a lot of tension during championship games because the teams are evenly matched so the scores are usually pretty close, but our guys just dominated. I was truly proud to be a Seahawk that day.”
After the conference, the Seahawks stand 22-5. This year, the brackets were released Monday, Feb. 28.