Sunset on Horizon League Championship: Wright State chokes Oakland

Sam Schlenner

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Oakland men’s basketball (21-11) felt the grip of a Wright State (22-12) team in their prime Monday night, losing 59-55 in the semifinals of the Horizon League Championship at Joe Louis Arena.

“Obviously at this time of the year, when you lose, it’s as disappointing as could be,” Oakland head coach Greg Kampe said in the postgame press conference. “I’m really proud of my team.”

Before the game, the crowd of over 6,000 was silent for a few seconds to mourn the death of Chip Hooper, Max’s father, who died Saturday, March 5.

Oakland commanded early, pushing the score to 13-8 with 12:26 left in the first half.

Wright State responded, dribbling out the time on transition, tightening their boa constrictor-like play style the likes of which Oakland hadn’t seen from them all year.

Wright State took the lead four minutes later, pushing it to 13 before Oakland closed the gap and put the score to 33-25 Wright State at the half.

Play remained the same upon return, the lead hovering around eight. For a while.

Oakland made their run six and a half minutes in. Kay Felder with a foul shot. Hill-Mais with a jumper. 3-pointer by Felder.

The teams grinded on for three minutes without scoring, Wright State holding on to a two-point lead. Martez Walker had had enough of that.

Something about a two-handed slam (and one) to take the lead with just under nine to play in a game such as this felt so personal.

But three-up was as far as the Golden Grizzlies would get.

Kay Felder scored 18, shooting an off-kilter 5-for-19 from the field and 2-for-9 behind the arc.

Jalen Hayes piped in 14 points, shooting 5-for-8 from the field, and grabbed 10 rebounds.

Max Hooper shot 3-for-5 on the three. He scored nine.

Martez Walker shot 1-for-5 from the field and 0-for-3 behind the arc, scoring 5.

Percy Gibson scored 4, shooting 1-for-4 from the field. He took five rebounds.

“When you play a team that can score like they can,” Wright State head coach Billy Donlon said in the postgame press conference, referring to Oakland, “if they get 70 possessions, the bad shots they shoot don’t matter. We had to try to make it a game where the bad shots they shoot matter.”

They succeeded at that.

For the Wright State Raiders, Mark Alstork got 18 points and six rebounds. He shot 6-for-10 from the field and 1-for-3 from the three.

JT Yoho scored 15 and picked up four boards, shooting 7-for-12 from the field.

Daniel Mortensen made 11, shot 4-for-8 from the field and 3-for-6 behind the arc.

Biggie Minnis hit 4-for-7 from the field and picked up five boards, scoring eight.

“We’re going to keep playing,” Kampe said. “Max wants to keep playing. We’re going to keep playing. Our young guys like Jay need more games. We had a great year. We’re going to celebrate that year and we’re going to play.”

Wright State plays Green Bay in the finals of Motor City Madness at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 8. It will be broadcast on ESPN.