Basketball Teams Compete in NCAC Quarterfinals


Photo courtesy of Maggie Balderstone

Alyson Jefferson dribbles in a game against Denison University for the NCAC quarterfinals.

The men’s and women’s basketball teams competed in the quarterfinals of the 2023 North Coast Athletic Conference Championship Tuesday. The eighth-seed Yeomen took on the College of Wooster Fighting Scots, which were the top seed, on its home court, while the fourth-seed Yeowomen competed against fifth-seed Denison University at Philips gym.

Before heading into the match against Wooster in the NCAC Championship Quarterfinals, fourth-year Đorđe Otašević took time to reflect on his three seasons competing for Oberlin.

“I am sad that my college career is coming to an end, but I’m proud of my team and everything we’ve done so far,” Otašević said. “We proved that we can play against anyone, even a great team such as Wooster. We will play our game, stick to our principles and game plan, and leave it all out on the court.”

Coming straight from a victory against the Fighting Scots for the first time in 35 years, the Yeomen competed valiantly against Wooster but ultimately came up short. Down by nine at halftime, the Yeomen struggled in the early moments of the second half but went on a 13–2 run to shrink Wooster’s lead to just three points, 65–62. Otašević; second-year Will Bousquette III, who was Oberlin’s scoring leader with 16 points; third-year Dimitrije Radusinovic; and first-year Adam Navarre all contributed to the scoring sheet, but their efforts proved futile as the Yeomen went on a five-minute scoring drought and ultimately lost 92–77.

Meanwhile, the Yeowomen en tered their contest against fifth-seed Denison as the fourth seed with a 15–10 season record. Oberlin had swept the Big Red in its previous two meetings this season and entered the game brimming with confidence. The stakes for this game were even higher, as Denison Head Coach Maureen Hirt was previously an assistant coach for Oberlin’s team and played a significant role in helping the Yeowomen get to the semifinals in the historic 2021–22 season.

Both teams came out of the gates firing, combining for 20 points in the first five minutes. Denison stayed one step ahead throughout the first quarter, which finished with the Big Red leading 20–17.

Overall, scoring slowed in the second quarter, with good defense and intense pressure on ball handlers and shooters. Buckets by first-year Lily Najmulski, third-year Jaedyn O’Reilly, and third-year Alyson Jefferson kept the Yeowomen in contention, and a buzzer-beater by second-year Kendal McCall lessened the Big Red’s lead to two, with Denison leading 30–28 at half. Second-year Bryana Woodard tied the game with layup to start the half, which set the tone for the third quarter. The two teams kept the scoring numbers high and stayed neck and neck thanks to Najmulski and third-year Gina Lombard. The duo knocked down a pair of two three-pointers each, which gave the Yeowomen a four-point advantage entering the fourth.

Najmulski and Lombard continued their success in the fourth by knocking down back-to-back three-pointers in the opening minute, which got the crowd rolling. Second-year Camille Zinaich, fueled by the moment and the crowd’s energy, knocked down three mid-range jumpers in a row to extend Oberlin’s lead to 14.

Down 66–52 with five minutes remaining, Denison crawled back valiantly and scored nine consecutive points to cut the lead to 5. First-year Angela Kumler held her nerve and sank her free throws, solidifying the Yeowomen with an unreachable seven point lead. Oberlin held on to knock off Denison 72–62 and advanced to the NCAC Championship Semifinals. They will face the number one seed, Wittenberg University, in Greencastle, IN.

Zinaich is looking forward to the upcoming matchup. She’s not only excited to be in the semifinals for two consecutive years, but she also hopes to avenge the team’s previous losses against Wittenberg this year, one of which was the final game of the regular season.

“It feels pretty awesome to be back in the semifinals,” Zinaich said. “Last year we did not play our best and we left Indiana feeling pretty bad, so it’s good to be back for some redemption. I am really excited to be playing Wittenberg. We lost to them twice this year, so we really want this win and want to end up in the championship game. The team and I are definitely striving for a championship this weekend.”