Last Friday, Feb. 21, the men’s basketball team traveled to Georgetown, Texas, where they defeated Southwestern 57-41 in their last SCAC regular season game to grab the top seed heading into the SCAC championship.
Senior Zach Lambert and junior Matt Selling lead the Tigers in points with 12 apiece, with senior Robert Kitzinger adding nine and senior Joe Shotland contributing eight. Senior John LaVanaway had an impressive eight rebounds against the Pirates. Overall, the Tigers shot 40.8 percent from the floor, made 50 percent of three-pointers and were 75 percent at the free-throw line.
Even though the Tigers ended up clinching the win, the team felt that they had a lackluster beginning to the game, but were able to bounce back in the second half.
“We started a little slow against Southwestern, but in the second half we collectively shot better and played with a greater sense of urgency. I thought our defensive pressure was better and offensively we moved the ball more efficiently and hit open shots. We definitely finished on a positive note in that second half,” Shotland said.
Junior point guard Craig Saltarelli adds, “In the second half, we got back to playing at a high level and were able to put Southwestern away. We shot the ball well in the second half. We hit some transition threes and mid-range jump shots and we were able to play lockdown defense and pull away.”
The win against Southwestern marks the final regular season game for the Tigers. Overall, they ended with a 16-9 record and a 11-3 conference record, which pushes them to the top of the bracket heading into the SCAC championship. The championship is this weekend, Feb. 28 through March 2, with all the SCAC teams traveling to Trinity. A conference championship would ensure an automatic berth into the NCAA tournament for the Tigers.
“Our goal is to reach the NCAA Sweet 16 and to go further than our class has gotten in the postseason thus far. We’ve been to the second round and lost as sophomores. We want to improve and get to the third round of the NCAAs. With our group, it’s a realistic goal,” Shotland said.
The Tigers are looking forward to competing and feel as though they are ready and know what they need to do to get wins.
“We need to come out each game with a 40-minute effort, rather than just relying on one good half of basketball. The past couple of practice days our guys have come out focused. We are excited to be fully healthy going into this year’s tournament,” said assistant coach Ross Burt .
Saltarelli adds, “We are confident going into conference because we’ve won back-to-back titles and know what it’s going to take to get another. We are capable of winning again, and if we play at the high level that we usually do we feel we can three-peat.”
They play first in the quarterfinals today at 1 p.m. in Webster Gymnasium versus Texas Lutheran. Should they win, the Tigers will advance to the semifinals to face the winner of Colorado College and the University of Dallas game in Sams Gymnasium at 1 p.m on Saturday, March 1. If Trinity musters another victory in that round, they will play in the finals at noon in Sams Gymnasium on Sunday, March 2. They would face either Centenary College, Southwestern University, Schreiner University or Austin College.
The Tigers are going for their second SCAC three-peat in school history, with the first coming from the 2002-2005 seasons. If the Tigers prevail, it will be their eighth SCAC championship in school history, with the first coming in the 1997-1998 season.