The tone for Wednesday's women's basketball game was set 24 hours prior as senior Ja'Cole Tabor informed the coaching staff that she didn't want to start the game because of her class status.
"Ja'Cole chose not to start today because everything that Ja'Cole ever does is what is about what is best for everybody," said assistant coach Allan King. "That is not just something that happens in basketball, but something that happens in life. She cares about other people deeply; she cares about people having success. In her mindset, what gave us the best opportunity to be successful was for us to stay in a normal mode, keep a normal lineup and play this game normally. She also understands that starting is not as important as everyone makes it. She is on the floor at the end of the game because we trust her."
Tabor (Dayton, OH/Chaminade Julienne) came off the bench to grab a career-high 10 rebounds, eight offensive, with a career-best five steals in 25 minutes as the Wilmington College women's basketball team came back to post the 60-53 victory over Capital Wednesday in Ohio Athletic Conference action at Fred Raizk Arena in Hermann Court.
"We needed every one of the offensive rebounds and every one of the steals," said King. "A lot of times (her contributions) don't show up on the stat sheet, but she always does what we need her to do. Tonight, it was be that rebounding force and we needed her to get those steals. She talked, controlled switches and kept us playing the right way. With her communication, we don't have too many breakdowns."
With the victory, Wilmington travels to Baldwin Wallace 3 p.m. Saturday with the winner claiming the second seed, and the double bye that comes with the seeding.
Wilmington scored the game's final eight points to secure the victory with the biggest play coming with 1:08 remaining. Capital, trailing by one, secured a rebound but senior Mary Moyer (Martinsville, OH/Clinton Massie) knocked the ball loose to an awaiting Tabor, who passed back to Moyer for a three-point lead.
The Crusaders' game-tying three-pointer with 44 seconds remaining was long, and Wilmington put the game away going four-for-four from the charity stripe.
"Our seniors came up huge," said King. "I can sit here and think of multiple plays toward the end of the game. (Senior) Ashley Andracki ran this basketball team tonight, and that was fun. When she was out at the point, she was really in control."
The four-player senior class, who was honored in pregame ceremonies, combined for 42 points and 25 rebounds.
After both teams had a scoring spurt in the opening period, Capital took control in the second with 11-0 run that ended on a senior Brittaney Jefferson (Dayton, OH/Chaminade Julienne) three-pointer to end the half allowing WC to trail by just four points at the break.
The shoe was on the other foot in the third quarter as Wilmington ended the 10-minute segment on a 10-3 spurt to claim the lead. It was a lead that came in unusual fashion.
With the shot clock buzzer going off, both teams stopped as Mackenzie Campbell's (Cincinnati, OH/Turpin) lay-up attempt glanced off rim, allowing junior Emily Smith (Bellbrook, OH/Bellbrook) to calmly grab the rebound and casually scored before the game-clock expired.
"There was definitely confidence in the huddle," said King. "But what it really gave us was a light-hearted moment because no one else really knew what happened. With everyone else stopping on the play, and Emily having a wide open three-foot jump shot, it gave us some levity to the moment and freed us to just go play."
Wilmington took the calmness and never wavered as Capital claimed the lead late. The Fightin' Quakers simply turned to their seniors to bring home the victory.
Jefferson finished with 17 points, six rebounds and two steals, while Andracki added 10 points, two assists and one rebounds. Moyer, the league's leading rebounder, finished with eight rebounds, nine points, a team-high three assists and one steal.