WASHINGTON, D.C. - - The 2017 calendar year started off on a high note for the Wilmington University men's basketball team, as it held off the District of Columbia in the second half, 91-81, on Monday night at the UDC Sports Complex.
The 91 points ties a season high for the Wildcats (9-5), as they held as large as a 17-point lead early in the second half. The Firebirds (6-6) fought all the way back to within two points late in the second half, but the Wildcats held on for the win in their final nonconference contest of the season.
Trailing by six points midway through the first half, the Wildcats took their first lead of the game with 7:14 left. Brian Adkins hit a three-pointer before Tyaire Ponzo-Meek hit back-to-back layups for the lead, 21-20, at the under eight-minute media timeout. Adkins finished off the 10-0 run with another three-pointer and the Wildcats never gave allowed the Firebirds to regain the lead.
Former Firebird but current Wildcat Masner Beauplan hit back-to-back three-pointers to spark another 10-0 run, finished off by a Omari Dill-Pettiford layup and a Nick Richards steal and dunk, extending the lead to 34-23. Drew Johnson II ended the first half with a steal and dunk of his own, sending the Wildcats into the break leading 42-27.
A Richards jumper 1:32 into the second half gave the Wildcats a 46-29 lead, their largest of the evening. A 10-1 UDC spurt brought the home team back to within 49-42 with 14:30 left in regulation, as the comeback was on.
A Traevon Butler three-pointer closed the gap to within 55-51 with 8:56 to play before a Khalil Jackson layup had the Firebirds to as close as 62-59 with 6:29 left. Another Jackson layup had the home team as close as they've been since midway through the first half, closing to within 65-63 with 4:42 showing on the clock.
Ponzo-Meek had an answer for every Firebird attack, however, scoring 12 straight Wildcat points to keep the visitors ahead. A three-pointer with 1:47 to play put the Wildcats ahead 77-71, while Ponzo-Meek answered a Firebirds layup with a layup of his own, 79-73, with 1:12 left.
The Firebirds kept the pressure on, again scoring to get the game to within four points at 81-77, but Richards finished off a Johnson pass with another flush and Ponzo-Meek came up with a steal on the ensuing possession to seal the deal. The Wildcats hit all eight of their free throws down the stretch to secure the victory.
Ponzo-Meek finished with a game-high 26 points, shooting 10-of-18 from the floor. Dill-Pettiford went 7-of-14 from the floor and 5-of-6 from the line for his 20 points while Beauplan came off the bench to score 14 points. Richards filled the stat sheet with 13 points and team highs of nine rebounds, six assists, and four steals.
The Wildcats will focus their attention on the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference for the rest of the season, starting with a cross divisional battle at Felician on Wednesday night. The men will tip-off after the women's game at approximately 8:00 p.m.