It wasn’t quite as heroic as Jordan Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals, but the performance Shayne Whittington put on Sunday afternoon against Eastern Michigan was sure close.
Suffering from an illness, the Broncos big man was held out of practice Friday and Saturday and was a game-time decision on Sunday according to Head Coach Steve Hawkins, who was unsure if he’d have Whittington at his disposal in a pivotal rematch against the Eagles.
“If this game was on Saturday instead of Sunday, Shayne doesn’t play,” Coach Hawkins said following the Broncos 75-67 victory against Eastern Michigan. “We went through our game plan without Shayne playing. Kellen (McCormick) was going to start.”
Despite “feeling like crap,” Shayne did play and came up massive as he has so many times before.
In 37 grueling minutes where it was clear to see that Whittington was less than 100%, the Paw Paw native put up an impressive 22 points and hauled in 11 rebounds for his third straight double-double and 10th on the season. On Monday, Whittington was recognized for his efforts with his third Mid-American Conference West Player of the Week Award, and his second in as many weeks.
Whittington is a large reason why the Broncos have won seven straight and nine of their last 10 to catapult themselves into a first-place tie atop the MAC with Toledo. During the 10 game span, Whittington has averaged 16.5 points and almost nine boards a game. And his fellow teammates are grateful they had him on Sunday
“Shayne came out great, even though he’s sick as a dog, without him this game wouldn’t be possible, ” said senior David Brown, who finished with 20 points against EMU. “It feels great to be in in 1st place, but we don’t want to settle for 1st place. It’s me and Shane’s job to get us to that point.”
That point Brown is trying to reach is winning the MAC regular season title for the first time since 2004. And with four games left before the MAC Tournament in Cleveland, the Broncos are easily within reach of that goal. But to get the NCAA for just the second time in Coach Hakwins tenure as Broncos head coach, Whittington must continue this recent stretch of success.