2006 NCAA Division III Title
Richmond Times-Dispatch • Thursday, April 6, 2006
The Virginia Wesleyan men's basketball team experienced unparalleled success in the 2005-2006 season, compiling a 30-3 overall record highlighted by a 28-game winning streak – the longest in the nation – en route to claiming the 2006 NCAA Division III men's basketball championship title. The national championship was the first for any sport in Virginia Wesleyan history.
Macedo's Marlins are the first ODAC team and the first Division III team in Virginia to win a national basketball title. The Marlins finished the season with the longest winning streak in the nation (28 games) and set program records for points (2,531), defense (63.3 points allowed per game), rebounds (1,171) and assists (497). The Marlins also recorded the program's second-highest totals of free throws made (484) and attempted (696) and the second-highest three-point shooting percentage (37.9%).
2006 NABC Coach of the Year Dave Macedo
In his sixth season as head coach, Dave Macedo was named the 2006 Division III Coach of the Year by the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC). The winningest coach in Virginia Wesleyan history with a 124-45 overall record, Macedo also received South Region and Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) Coach-of-the-Year honors.
Junior forward Brandon Adair became the first Virginia Wesleyan basketball player to receive first-team All-America honors from D3Hoops and was named the 2006 NABC National Player of the Year. Adair is the first junior to receive the coveted NABC award since 1999. Adair will enter his senior season needing only 134 points to become the all-time leading scorer in Virginia Wesleyan history.
The Marlins compiled a 74-17 overall mark (41-13 ODAC) under Macedo's guidance, have played in three consecutive ODAC title games, winning twice, and have advanced to the NCAA tournament for two consecutive years.
The Marlins defeated the Yellow Jackets of Randolph-Macon College 81-78 in overtime in the 2006 ODAC championship game to clinch their second consecutive ODAC title. Senior guard Marcus Fitch hit a three-pointer with 15 seconds left in overtime to give the Marlins the three-point victory.
The ODAC title earned the Marlins an automatic berth into the 2006 NCAA Division III men's basketball tournament, and their impressive 25-3 record – highlighted by a 23-game winning streak – also earned them one of five first-round byes. The trip to the NCAA tournament marked the second consecutive appearance for the Marlins.
In the second round of the 2006 NCAA tournament, the Marlins hosted the Rams of SUNY-Farmingdale in the Jane P. Batten Student Center on Saturday, March 4. A game that had been tight for all of the first half and most of the second turned in the hosts' favor when the Marlins began an impressive 24-9 scoring run with 6:15 left in the game. Fitch hit a triple jumpstart a rally that led to a 71-63 victory that left the Rams stunned and advanced the Marlins to the NCAA Round of 16 for the first time in program history. Adair tallied 20 points in the win and sophomore guard Ton Ton Balenga added 19 in the win.
In Virginia Wesleyan's first-ever appearance in the Round of 16,
the Marlins hosted the Lions of Lincoln University (Pa.) on Friday,
March 10 in the Batten Center. With less than three minutes
remaining, the Lions had taken a 71-63 lead over the Marlins after
five consecutive points by D3Hoops Player of the Year Kyle Myrick,
but Virginia Wesleyan went on a 9-0 rally in the final two minutes
of the game to steal the win away. Balenga, exhibiting the cool,
calm, even audacious grace that would come to define his game by
the end of the tournament, nailed a three-pointer with three
seconds remaining to push the Marlins past the Lions and advance
them to the Round of 8.
Virginia Wesleyan Marlins: 2006 National Champs
William Paterson University (N.J.) was next on the list for the Marlins, who hosted the Pioneers in the Batten Center on Saturday, March 11. In the lowest-scoring game of the season for Virginia Wesleyan, the Marlins held William Paterson scoreless as they tallied six unanswered points in the first eight minutes of the second half. The Pioneers tied it up at 25 until Balenga hit a layup to take the lead with 10:49 remaining. The Marlins never looked back en route to a 46-35 win over the Pioneers. Balenga led the Marlins with 13 points and Adair and sophomore forward Tyler Fantin added 10 each.
The Marlins entered the semifinals of the 2006 NCAA Division III men's basketball championship riding a 26-game winning streak – the longest in the nation. In the first appearance in a national semifinal in any sport in College history, the Marlins faced the Titans of Illinois Wesleyan on Friday, March 17 in the Salem Civic Center in Salem, Va. Almost like a second home to the Marlins, the Civic Center is also the site of the ODAC championship tournament, which the Marlins won in 2005 and 2006. With six consecutive victories on Salem turf under their belts, the Marlins returned once again to Salem to face the favored Tigers of Illinois Wesleyan. A close game from the very beginning, the lead changed hands 11 times and the score was tied nine. Balenga hit a three with just under three minutes remaining to pull the Marlins within one, then sunk a second one with less than 1:30 left to give Wesleyan the lead for good. The Marlins "upset" the Tigers 81-79 to advance to the national championship game. Adair led the Marlins with 29 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
It was as though they suddenly realized what was on the line. The team that had been seemingly unshakable all season all of a sudden appeared to notice that they were in the spotlight.
They had clinched a conference title, a regional title and made it all the way to the championship game of the 2006 NCAA Division III men's basketball tournament without ever seeming to notice the weight of expectation that had been placed on their shoulders. But at halftime of the NCAA championship game in Salem, Va. on March 18, it seemed like the Marlins of Virginia Wesleyan College were feeling the pressure.
Down 29-19 to Wittenberg University, the Marlins were fighting to stay afloat in a game they hadn't led yet. But when they took the court once again, for the final half of basketball that the 2006 season had to offer, it was clear: the fans in white with blue pom poms and "Fear the Fish" T-shirts expected them to win.
And so, the Miracle Marlins decided to fight back. Adair set the tone for the second half, scoring a layup less than fifteen seconds in. The Marlins battled for most of the half, inching their way back into the game. With 1:20 left in the game, Adair hit another layup off an assist by Fantin to tie the game at 54. Wittenberg answered with a layup of their own to take a two-point lead with 0:58 remaining. Adair answered once again with two free throws to tie the game once more at 56. And, with 49 seconds on the clock, a traveling call against the Tigers once again gave the ball to the Marlins. With Adair covered, sophomore guard D'Juan Tucker found Ton Ton Balenga at the top of the key. Following a screen by Fantin, Balenga sunk a three-pointer with less than three seconds to go in regulation to give the Marlins the win. See Ton Ton's title-winning shot.
Balenga led the Marlins with 22 points and Adair followed with 21. Both players were named to the 2006 NCAA Division III All-Tournament Team, and Balenga also received Most Outstanding Player honors.