Najee Smith and the Western Michigan Broncos welcomed themselves to March Madness. The eighth-seed in the Mid-American Conference beat the top-seed Central Michigan Chippewas 67-63. The Broncos advances to the final four on Friday.
Smith’s three-pointer gave the Broncos (19-12) their only lead in the game at 65-63 with :12 left. Smith finished with 12 points all on three pointers.
The Chippewas (23-8) who had averaged 94 points in both of their victorious games against the Broncos, looked like they were on their way to another comfortable blowout. They had a 13-0 run to put them in front 15-2 with 5:24 left in the first.
But the Broncos never gave up. They got the lead down to seven, 20-13 at the end of one. However, the Chippewas would push it back to double-digits. They led 33-24 at the half. The Chippewas shot 46 percent from the field and had a 25-19 rebound advantage.
In the second-half, the Broncos cut the lead down to two at 44-42, but they could not get any closer as the Chippewas lead at the end of three, 50-44.
The Chippewas looked like they were going to put this game away when they took a nine-point lead at 59-50 with 4:34 to go.
A three-pointer by Meredith Miller followed by a layup and two free throws by Deja Wimby and the lead is cut to two at 59-57 with 3:27 left.
The Chippewas scored the next six points and led 63-57 with 2:01 left. The Broncos went down and two missed shots by Wimby and the Chips had the ball with and a six-point lead with 1:41 left.
The Chips would turned the ball over with 1:24 left, leaving the door wide open for the Broncos. Smith connected on a three-pointer to cut the lead to 63-60 with 1:13 left.
Following a Chips’ timeout, they would turn the ball over again on a charging foul with :37 left. Breanna Mobley’s layup, cut the lead to one at 63-62 with :21 left. A third turnover, this one by Jewel Cotton, gave the Broncos the ball with :21 left.
Following a Broncos’ timeout, Smith would hit the game-clincher three-pointer to give them their first lead at 65-63 with :12 left.
The Chips had a chance to avoid elimination, but another turnover gave the Broncos the ball with five seconds left. Meredith Shipman made both free throws for a 67-63 victory.
Wimby finished with a team-high of 17 points, seven assists and three steals. Mobley had 14 points and six rebounds. For the Chips, who might get a WNIT bid, were led by Reyna Frost. The sophomore forward had 18 points, 17 rebounds, four blocked shots, three assist and two steals.
Ohio locals in action…
Marley Hill (Columbus Africentric) – Western Michigan – the junior center had 10 points and 2 blocked shots.
Meredith Miller (Hillard Bradley) – Western Michigan – the sophomore forward had three points.