Washington College scored its biggest victory of the basketball season two nights ago, and the only painful aspect was the fact it helped rival Johns Hopkins get into the Middle Atlantic Conference playoffs.
The Blue Jays travel to Chestertown tonight (7:30) to play the Shoremen in a regular-season finale that lost some of its importance Wednesday. That's when Washington knocked off Widener, the team that was chasing Johns Hopkins for the second and final playoff berth in the MAC Southeast Section.
The Blue Jays are 7-2 in the Southeast, 15-9 overall. In the MAC Southern Division semifinals next week, they are expected to play at Franklin & Marshall, which is ranked No. 2 in the NCAA Division III rankings. Hopkins' best bet for returning to the NCAA playoffs is to win the Southern Division playoffs.
Hopkins isn't looking that far ahead, because Washington is finishing with a flourish. The Shoremen lost much of the squad that finished third in the nation a year ago and struggled early, but the win over Widener was the fourth in their last five games, and improved them to 9-13 overall, 4-5 in the MAC.
It will be the first losing season for coach Tom Finnegan since 1978-79.
"That was a big favor they did for us," Johns Hopkins coach Bill Nelson said. "I don't think they're interested in helping us again. Washington is playing its best ball of the season."
Washington has been paced during its late spurt by Darren Vican, a 6-foot-9 center from Milford, Del., who is averaging 14.9 points. He's joined in the starting lineup by two junior forwards and two freshman guards, one being Geoff Rupert, who went to South Carroll High.
"If this were Jan. 13 or 14, we might finish with a pretty decent record," Finnegan said. "We played 10 of our first 14 games on the road, and everyone's playing better now than they did at the beginning of the season."
Johns Hopkins, conversely, will take a veteran cast into next week's playoffs. Senior Andy Enfield, the Blue Jays' all-time leading scorer with 1,915 points, has a career free throw percentage of 92.1 percent, and is expected to finish as the all-time NCAA record-holder in that category.
Dave Eikenberg, the point guard who went to John Carroll High, has a school-record 375 assists. Senior center Eric Hastings, a senior from Perry Hall, is averaging 8.3 points and 4.3 rebounds.