The Stevenson University men’s basketball team has turned doubters into admirers as they have the first winning overall record since the 2014-2015 season.
This season, the Mustangs are 8-7 in Middle Atlantic Commonwealth Conference (MAC Commonwealth) play and are 14-10 overall, with their final regular season game on Feb. 16 at Albright College. The Mustangs’ in-conference record has guaranteed them a spot in post-season play. This will be the first conference playoff for the Mustangs since the 2015-2016 season, according to a gomustangsports article.
This is a big advancement compared to the past two seasons where the team had a combined five wins total in-conference.
Despite having a clinched playoff spot, head coach Gary Stewart said in a post-game interview that he does not want to get ahead of himself and he wants his team to finish the season strong.
Because of the recent losing seasons, the Mustangs were picked as last in the conference in the MAC Commonwealth preseason poll. Senior Marcus Dentley said this ranking gave everyone on the team motivation to prove them wrong. “Everyone is playing with a chip on their shoulder,” he added.
Dentley, along with Mark Terrell and Montaque Wright, are all averaging double digits for the Mustangs. Terrell had a career, and team high, 35 points against Fairleigh Dickson University Florham on Nov. 1
On Jan. 3 at Alvernia University, Wright hit a three-quarter-court buzzer beater that was featured as number two on Sports Center’s Top 10. The last second shot put the Mustangs on top, giving Stewart his 100th win at Stevenson, according to a post-game article.
This season, the men have had two games scoring 100 points, and one scoring 101. The Jan. 12 win, where the Mustangs beat Widener 101-71, was a monumental game. The 101 points scored, gave the team their most victories since the 2014-2015 season. The 30-point difference became the largest margin of victory for the Mustangs since joining the MAC Commonwealth conference in 2012, according to the post-game article.
The team’s makeup this season varies from previous years, as the coaches have brought in five freshman and two transfer players.
Dentley said the team’s success this season is due to their improved team chemistry on and off the court. “We’re playing for each other rather than just trying to improve our stats individually.”
This season to improve team chemistry and discipline, Stewart has implemented a new system called an “accountability partner” for his team. Dentley described it as each player on the team being assigned a partner and forced to be responsible for each other when it comes to basketball and school. An example of this is if one player is late to class, him and his partner would receive punishment.
The Feb.12 game against Hood College was senior night, honoring Dentley, Wright, Johnny Rhodes, and Walt English the four seniors on this year’s squad. Stewart said in a post-game interview that these seniors are a great group of young men and they have more to accomplish going into post season. Freshman Damon Koskovich said that the seniors were role models for the younger players on the team both on and off the court.
MAC Commonwealth playoffs first round games begin on Feb. 18, semifinals on Feb. 20, and the championship on Feb. 23. Dates and locations depend on the final rankings and will not be determined until after all in-conference games have been played.