From left, Jason Wiertel, Rob Garnes, Jim Oboikowitch, Antoine McDaniel and Bart Fabian celebrate an 85-70 victory over Lewis & Clark College on their home floor in the 2002 regional final to advance to the NCAA Division III Final Four.

Twenty years ago, the Carthage Red Men made a run to the Final Four

This Date in Kenosha Sports History: Program's greatest season was capped in Salem, Va.

By David MarranKENOSHA.COM

As the longtime Kenosha News sports editor, Marran mentored a team of talented writers over a span of two decades, crafting award-winning coverage and high praise from the local sports community.

On this date (March 16) in 2002, the Carthage College men’s basketball team completed the greatest season in the 116-year history of the program.

Twenty years ago today, the then-nicknamed Red Men concluded their only trip to the NCAA Division III Final Four with a 72-51 win over Rochester (N.Y.) in the third-place game in Salem, Va. The conquest came a day after Carthage fell to eventual national champion Otterbein (Ohio) 70-66 in a semifinal.

Jim Oboikowitch, left, and Jason Wiertel with the third-place trophy.

This run was the zenith of Carthage’s dominance of the early 2000s when the program gained national respect and quite a following by winning three College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin titles and at least 20 games a season in a four-year stretch.

“What a great time we had in 2002, but also in 2000, 2001 and 2003,” said Bosko Djurickovic, who earned the first of his three CCIW Coach of the Year Awards in 2002 as part of his 24 seasons at the school.

“Carthage basketball was special in Kenosha. The fans were the best anywhere! Home games were packed, and we often outnumbered the home fans on the road. We had big turnouts (the previous season) for the second week (of the NCAA Tournament) at Ada, Ohio, and a wonderful contingent made the trip to Salem for the Final Four.”

Djurickovic’s crew cruised into Salem with a 27-1 record and a CCIW title in hand. 

Coach Bosko Djurickovic gives instructions to Jason Wiertel.

This juggernaut featured two All-Americans in senior Jason Wiertel ( and junior Antoine McDaniel (National Association of Basketball Coaches). McDaniel was the CCIW Player of the Year and joined Wiertel and junior teammate Rob Garnes as first-team All-CCIW selections. McDaniel and Wiertel were also first-team All-Midwest Region picks.

“It all comes down to the players,” said Djurickovic, who credited university president Dr. Gregory Campbell, athletic director Bob Bonn and his staff of Tim Bernero, Dave Roehl and Earl Trice as contributors to the program’s success.

“Everyone remembers our star three, Jason Wiertel, Rob Garnes, and Antoine McDaniel, and they should. Jason and Rob are two of only eight four-time first team All-CCIW players. Jason and Antoine were also selected as Player of the Year in our great conference (Wiertel won in 2000).”

The Red Men arrived at the Final Four on a roll.

Carthage hadn’t lost since a 77-75 setback to Elmhurst (Ill.) on Jan. 9 — a span of 16 games. The Red Men were winning comfortably, too. Twenty of their 27 wins were by at least 10 points, including an 85-70 home pasting of Lewis & Clark to reach the finals.

Carthage’s first trip to the Final Four got off to a promising start in the March 15 semifinal against Otterbein.

The Red Men grabbed a 14-point lead at 22-8 on Bart Fabian’s 3-pointer with 12 minutes, 36 seconds left in the first half.

Except for a brief tie, Carthage held the lead for the rest of the first half and led 40-36 at the break.

The second half started much like the first with a Carthage burst. The Red Men scored the first four points of the half on two Wiertel free throws and a McDaniel jumper to take an eight-point lead with 19:17 to go.

“What a great time we had in 2002, but also in 2000, 2001 and 2003. … Carthage basketball was special in Kenosha.”

– Bosko Djurickovic, former Carthage basketball coach

After Wiertel hit a jumper with 17:44 left, strongman Jeff Gibbs, who was eventually named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, got Otterbein back into the game with five consecutive points. That spurt sparked a 12-1 Otterbein run which turned the contest into a tight affair the rest of the way.

Carthage took its last lead at 66-64 on a Garnes jumper with 3:18 left.

That, though, was the last time the Red Men scored.

Gibbs, a 6-1 center who was an All-American in football and basketball, scored four points in Otterbein’s closing 7-0 run in finishing off Carthage.

Things went so much better for Carthage the next day.

The Red Men were at their absolute best in trampling Rochester in the third-place game.

Carthage never trailed and the game was tied just once as the team peaked its lead at 25 on two occasions in the second half.

Former Carthage basketball players and coach Bosko Djurickovic, far right, celebrate at Jason Wiertel’s wedding on June 24, 2005.

Garnes gave cruising Carthage the lead for good with a layup with 12:15 left in the first half. A layup by Wiertel with 2:10 to go in the first half put the Red Men lead in double figures for good en route to a 39-25 bulge at the break.

The Red Men lead was at least 20 points for all but a handful of seconds for the final 13:16 of this rout.

In his final game, Wiertel scored 23 of his 33 points in the second half. The future Carthage Hall of Famer was 13-of-27 from the field and 7-of-7 from the free-throw line with seven rebounds and three steals, capping a career which would leave him as the school’s all-time leading scorer.

McDaniel, a Carthage Hall of Famer, was the only other Carthage player in double figures (10 points) while Fabian finished with team highs of nine rebounds and five assists.

From left, Rob Garnes, Jason Wiertel, Kim Ferizi, Theo Powell and Antoine McDaniel at a more recent get-together.

Also playing for Carthage were Jim Oboikowitch, Bernard Middleton, Tim Shorts, Johnny Meier, Pat Kalamatas, Orlando Wilson, Trevor Cockayne, Paul Reiff, Scott Steger, Ryan Hargesheimer and Theo Powell.

“I’ll never forget the other great players that contributed,” Djurickovic said. “Jim Oboikowitch (was) rock solid and a team leader, the ultimate Carthaginian. Bart Fabian (was a) tough-as-nails guard and big-game player and Theo Powell, a four-year outstanding star big man.

“And that’s only mentioning players from the 2002 team. (I) can’t forget Greg Ktistou from 2001, best practice player that I ever coached and a real winner; Brett Nishibayashi from 2001, great defender and team guy; and so many others.”

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