Men’s Basketball Wins on Kurt’s Last-Second Stunner

A packed Timken Gymnasium reacts to Kurt’s heroics. Image courtesy of Craig Akiri ’23.
Turner Kurt’ 23 saves the day for Wooster with last-minute shot. Image courtesy of Craig Akiri ’23.
Eliot Barrengos, Sports Editor

The most memorable moments in sports are the ones that make us all collectively gasp. The types of moments that bring strangers, students and alumni together. Moments like these bring us to our feet, we find ourselves hugging people we’ve never known, bonded over the story in front of us. The final snap of a drive with the game on the line, the bottom of the ninth inning with the bases loaded and, of course, the buzzer-beating shot to win a championship game. These are the moments we all dreamed about as kids, the ones we played out in our backyards or after our elementary school basketball games. 

On the evening of Saturday, Feb. 18, in his last ever regular season home game, senior forward Turner Kurt gave the whole Wooster community the gift of one of those moments. Timken Gymnasium was buzzing with excitement from tip-off at 3:15 p.m. up until the final second of play. Kurt, who hit a game-winning, top-seed-clinching, buzzer-beating three-pointer to prevent what could have been a disastrous collapse, let all of us live out one of those moments. With the top seed in the NCAC D-III tournament on the line, the Scots were anticipating a battle with the Wabash College Little Giants before Kurt’s grand finish. The first half of play wrote a familiar story for the Scots, as they traded blows with Wabash, but struggled to take command against one of their most formidable opponents all year; Wooster’s lone conference loss this season came at the hands of Wabash on Feb. 7. But that loss wasn’t in the Scots’ house, and the top seed in the conference wasn’t on the line then. This past Saturday it was, and Wooster wanted to declare victory. 

It was in the second half that Wooster seemed to come alive. The offense, which had been driven by the usual suspects, had Jamir Billings ’25 captaining the unit at the top of the key, and a few timely shots from Elijah Meredith ’24 and JJ Cline ’24 throughout the first half. The Scots got hot in the second half, pulling ahead by as much as 12 points in the first seven minutes of the second half. Wooster got contributions from down the roster, as the bench shined, highlighted by Issac Roeder ’26 hitting multiple timely three-pointers and Carter Warstler ’24 showing off his hustle and hitting a triple of his own. 

With a sizable, but not insurmountable, lead and the best defense in the NCAC, the Scots seemed to have the game in hand, but Wooster’s run of success seemed to vanish just as quickly as it had erupted. Wabash rattled off a 13-1 run from the 11:26 mark until the Little Giants took back the lead on first-year guard Josh Whack’s go-ahead floater to put Wabash in line for a victory with 2.4 seconds left on the clock and 72-74 on the scoreboard. Wooster was dead in the water and a comeback seemed nearly impossible, but head coach Doug Cline had, as Meredith put it, “emphasized having a mentality of [it’s] not over until the buzzer sounds… Last night’s ending was a reflection of what he was preaching in preparation for the game.” 

Wooster placed hometown kid JJ Cline under the baseline, and the former high school quarterback utilized his All-Ohio arm strength in a sort of hail-mary attempt. The Scots caught a critical break as Wabash deflected the ball out of play, giving the Scots the chance to tie the game under their net. Meredith added that he was “really nervous before the play started, but once the shot went in, I was just happy and excited. I couldn’t believe what had happened.” With 2.1 seconds to get a shot off, Najee Hardaway ’23 set a screen and the 6’ 8” forward’s ball fake gave him an open chance at the biggest shot of his career. What ensued was a monumental moment, in the context of the season, and Kurt’s career. We can’t possibly know every detail of what led to such a fairytale ending, a moment where each of us felt compelled to stand silently for just a fraction of a second and wait in anticipation to see if the Scots could pull off what seemed to be impossible just a few moments earlier, if we could will the familiar swoosh of the ball falling through the net. A sound that meant victory, a sound that meant exhilaration, a sound we were all dreaming of.

In the moments following his late-game heroics, Kurt backpedaled and pointed at his shot before being swallowed by a mob of ecstatic fans. It is the type of moment that is years in the making, takes countless hours and an unquantifiable dedication that is required of a student-athlete. When asked if the Scots planned on getting Kurt the ball, Coach Cline said, “The play was for Turner to shoot a three-point shot. With him having a big guy on him, we felt that he was going to be the guy most open to getting a good look.” But make no mistake, this moment didn’t come easily to the Scots; it wasn’t supposed to play out this way.

After Wooster’s win on Feb. 21 against Oberlin in the quarterfinals of the NCAC Men’s Basketball Tournament, they will face off against #4 seed Denison, who defeated Wittenberg with a buzzer-beater of their own, in the semifinals on Friday, Feb. 24. Best of luck, Scots!

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