Basketball wraps up season, breaks expectations

THE MEN’S BASKETBALL TEAM finished the season ranked third in conference, though it was picked to finish eighth. Courtesy photo, Newman Athletics

Last week, Newman’s men’s basketball team traveled to Tulsa to compete in the Heartland Conference tournament, where the lost out first round. 

Sitting in the No. 3 seed in the conference, Newman faced the No. 6 seed, St. Edward’s University, on Friday afternoon. 

Though they took the lead early in the game, the Jets fell behind as the first half drew to a close. 

Newman scraped through the remainder of the contest; however, St. Edward’s clung to its lead, and the Jets eventually fell to the Hilltoppers with a final score of 71-62. 

Senior Kevin Bryant attributed the loss to a number of factors, namely excessive fouls that awarded the Hilltoppers with countless opportunities at the free throw line.  

“They shot 48 free throws compared to our 21… they [scored] 25 more points just based on free throws,” Bryant said. 

The Hilltoppers sank 14 of these 25 free throws within the last three minutes of the game, making it difficult for the Jets to close the gap between them as time ran out. 

Senior Damien Akao was also disappointed by their defeat. He agreed that much of the damage was caused by foul trouble but also added that the team struggled to make shots fall from the three-point line. 

Though the Jets wanted to soar past their competition at the conference tournament, they were still realistic with their expectations, Bryant said.

“We wanted to win conference,… but we haven’t been third seed or better in the last five or six years,” Bryant said. 

Though the Jets suffered an early loss in the postseason tournament, the members of the team are still able to hold their heads high after a respectable regular season. 

Initially picked for the eight spot, the team surpassed these early expectations and finished third in conference play. 

Akao believes much of this success was due to team chemistry. 

“I felt like we bought into what the coaches were saying, and we played for each other,” Akao said. 

Pleased with this aspect of Newman basketball, Akao hopes that this chemistry will carry into next year’s team. 

“Keep competing and working hard, and also enjoy your time with one another,” Akao says. 

This story first appeared in the March 8, 2018 issue of The Vantage.

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