It was the biggest shot of Tyler Peters’ career.
Deadlocked at 64-64 with three seconds left against No. 6 Washington University (Mo.), the junior guard received a pass outside the paint and turned over his right shoulder for a fade-away shot that beat the buzzer, sank through the net and sent 927 home fans into a victorious frenzy.
The shot gave Wheaton a 66-64 win and shot them up the D-III rankings. They now sit at No. 9 and are one of 13 remaining undefeated teams in the nation. The team defeated Cornell College (Iowa) on Wednesday night, Dec. 12, in King Arena to improve their overall record to 9-0 heading into this weekend’s trip to Minnesota where they will play their final two games of the non-conference season.
“I think a lot of people underestimated us this pre-season, and we’ve been playing with a chip on our shoulder,” Peters said of the team’s success. “Our goal is to finish the non-conference schedule undefeated and to practice day in and day out with great effort and competitiveness.”
Wheaton went into the Washington University game ranked 22nd in the nation, while the visiting Bears were sixth. In the first half, Wheaton pushed open a small lead at 29-24 following a three-pointer from junior Tad Fisher. The lead remained at five at 33-28 going into halftime.
The Thunder shot well from the three-point line the entire night thanks in large part to sophomore guard Michael Kvam and freshman forward Michael Berg, who combined for eight made three-pointers on the night.
It was a trey from Kvam that extended the Thunder lead to 48-41 with under 15 minutes to play, followed by Peters who made a lay-in and finished the three-point play to make it 51-41.
Washington responded with a run of their own and took the Thunder close down the stretch with a basket to tie the score at 61-61 with just 1:30 remaining in the game. Another Kvam three-pointer — his fifth of the night — gave Wheaton a critical 64-61 edge with under a minute to play.
But once again Washington responded, this time with a three-pointer of their own that tied the game at 64-64 with 38 seconds left. The Thunder took the ball down the floor, and after a missed three-pointer the ball was knocked out of bounds with three seconds left, setting up the final play.
“The play was actually drawn up to go to Michael Berg, who played phenomenally,” Peters said of the inbounds set. “I honestly did not expect to get the ball. I thought Berg would get a shot off. But when I got the ball so far off the block and with such little time I just threw up a fade-away. My thought process was to just get that thing up there and give it a shot to go in.”
The ball rattled through the rim simultaneously with the sound of the final buzzer, after which Peters turned away with an emphatic fist pump. The home crowd was not far behind as the students rushed the floor.
“Definitely the biggest shot I’ve made in my basketball career by far,” Peters said. “I don’t really think anything comes close either.”
Not only did the dramatic win boost the Thunder up the rankings and keep their undefeated record intact, it preserved another streak of 20 consecutive home victories dating back to the 2010-2011 season.
“There’s no place like King Arena,” Peters said of the home atmosphere. “When our fans come out and support us, there’s nothing like it. It just makes the game that much more enjoyable when you play a game you love behind the support of the students and the community who all share a love for Wheaton College.”
The Thunder were back at it again on the home court on Wednesday night, Dec. 12, against Cornell College of Iowa. Peters scored 17 first half points and finished with 26 points to lead all scorers as Wheaton expanded an eight-point halftime edge into a 75-61 victory. Smith contributed 14 points of his own while Nate Haynes totaled 11 points and 16 rebounds for another double-double.
The team departed for Minnesota on Thursday, Dec. 13, for the final two games of the non-conference schedule. Wheaton first takes on Northwestern College (Minn.) in St. Paul on Friday night, Dec. 14, at 7 p.m. before taking on North Central College (Minn.) in Minneapolis on Saturday night at 4 p.m. Both games can be heard on WETN-TV (campus channel 4) as well as wetn.org.
Photo Credit: Allison Freet
Printed in the December 14, 2012, issue of The Wheaton Record. Send comments to email@example.com.