After late-season rally, Wesley eyes CAC tourney opener

Wesley basketball-Bowers by .

Anthony Bowers and his Wesley teammates had to win seven of their final 11 games, including three in a row, just to get to 8-10 (10-15 overall) and earn the final spot in the CAC tourney. (Delaware State News file photo)

DOVER — Anthony Bowers tells his teammates all the time that this could be their last game.

But, on Saturday afternoon, it was pretty easy for all of Wesley College’s men’s basketball players to buy into that now-or-never mindset.

The Wolverines had to beat St. Mary’s to have any chance of making the Capital Athletic Conference Tournament. And Wesley trailed the Seahawks by six with 13 minutes left.

“Either we were going to pick this up or we were going to go home,” said Bowers, the Wolverines’ senior guard. “On Saturday, I think we all had that in the back of our minds. When we were trailing, I think we just locked in even more and came out with the win.”

Wesley basketball-Wayne Lennon by .

“We’re fighters,” said Wesley’s Wayne Lennon. “Every time we’re down, we always end up fighting and coming back. I knew that fight was still in us. I knew that were going to come back and win that game (on Saturday).” (Delaware State News file photo)

Wesley got it done down the stretch, pulling away to a 67-60 victory over St. Mary’s.

“It was a real good feeling,” said Bowers. “It was a relief.”

The sixth-seeded Wolverines’ reward for the victory is a CAC quarterfinal date at No. 3 Mary Washington (10-8 CAC, 14-11) today at 8 p.m.

Wesley’s players know they have only themselves to blame for the predicament they escaped from.

They had to win seven of their final 11 games, including three in a row, just to get to 8-10 (10-15 overall) and earn the final spot in the CAC tourney.

Still, the Wolverines came away with a sense of accomplishment. A month ago they were just 3-11.

A lot of teams might have simply given up.

“We’re fighters,” said Wayne Lennon, Wesley’s only other senior. “Every time we’re down, we always end up fighting and coming back. I knew that fight was still in us. I knew that were going to come back and win that game (on Saturday).

“That record doesn’t show what type of team this really is. If we were to play every minute, every second of the game the way that we’re capable of playing, we’d be the best team in the conference. … But we pulled it out in the end and made the tournament. That’s all that really matters.”

First-year coach Dean Burrows said he never stopped believing in his players because they never stopped believing in themselves.

Wesley endured a six-game losing streak and then a five-game skid. But four of its first nine losses came by just one or two points.

“Even when we were 3-11, I remember saying to my assistants, these guys come in every day with enthusiasm and energy,” said Burrows. “Not one day was it like, ‘Oh, here we go. We’ve got to practice.’ You never would have known we were 3-11 at the time.

“That was inspiring to us as coaches. So we brought it every day as well. I always tell these guys, ‘Once you quit once, you quit the rest of your life.’ Not one of these guys quit. It’s been really a fun group to work with.”

Of course there’s nothing easy about what the Wolverines are being asked to accomplish now. They’d have to win three road games in five days to take the CAC title.

Still, in back-to-back games earlier this month, they lost to top-seeded Christopher Newport by only four points and then to No. 2 Salisbury by six.

After winning so many games with their backs to the wall over the past few weeks, Wesley’s players believe anything is still possible.

The Wolverines have reached the CAC championship game in four of the last seven seasons.

“We’re 0-0 now,” said Lennon.

“Our last couple games, that’s the team that we envisioned us to be,” said Bowers. “It’s either you win or you go home.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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