In spite of their season coming to an abrupt end, John Brown University’s men’s basketball team went out in optimistic fashion.
“We just didn’t quite turn it together as soon as we wanted to, but near the end in the last couple of games, we really played hard as a team,” Griffin Brady, forward, said.
Following a dramatic win against University of Science and Arts Oklahoma to end both the regular season and their eight-game losing skid, the Golden Eagles went into the Sooner Athletic Conference Tournament in Waxahachie, Texas. They were ranked eighth out of the 10 participating teams. The team’s first match was on March 2 against ninth-seeded St. Gregory’s University Cavaliers, whom they had lost to just six days earlier by a score of 85-74.
“I wouldn’t say it was a revenge game, but it was a game we knew we could win,” Zach English, shooting guard, said about their matchup.
The Golden Eagles went on to an 81-67 win by doing what they had struggled to do all year—show consistency on offense throughout the entire game. The team’s victory was highlighted by scoring on six consecutive offensive possessions after their lead had been cut to 55-53. Nate Anderson, forward, led the way with 16 points, three assists and five blocks in the contest.
“At a point where most of the year we haven’t executed well down the stretch, we really made some big plays,” Jason Beschta, head coach, said.
The victory against St. Gregory’s put the Golden Eagles against the top-seeded Texas Wesleyan University Rams the next day. Even though the men were able to get ahead in the second half of that game, the lead was quickly diminished by the Rams’ offensive versatility.
“They usually put up about 90 to 100 points a game,” Brady said of Texas Wesleyan. “With a team like that, you’ve got to be very focused on defense and keeping their shot percentages low, but also keeping their second-chance shots—so their offensive rebounding—low as well.”
Beschta described Texas Wesleyan as a team with several players who pose a scoring threat. Such offensive depth was on display that Thursday night—though the Golden Eagles only allowed the Rams to shoot 41 percent from the floor, they couldn’t figure out point guard Dion Rogers, who notched 27 points in the victory.
Nonetheless, Beschta was happy with his team.
“I was proud of our fight when we could have folded being down in the second half,” Beschta said.
Though the Golden Eagles’ 70-56 loss to the Rams ended the team’s season, the team is optimistic for the future. Twelve of the 14 current team members are returning next year, and Beschta mentioned that the performances of next year’s returners have made him hopeful for next season.
“With so much coming back and so much young talent, we believe can really do something special in the years to come,” Beschta said.
Though the players attested to this past season’s difficulty, they are hopeful for what is to come.
“We had our ups and downs, but overall, it was good to play with these guys,” English said. “The future is bright for us. It’s such a young group. I’m looking forward to next year.”