The Gustavus men’s basketball team played their final regular season game against the Concordia Cobbers last Saturday afternoon. Heading into the game, the Gusties needed a win in order to clinch a spot in the MIAC playoffs.
After a hard battle fought against the number two seeded Cobbers, the Gusties finished the game losing 69-62 in regulation. The Gustavus men finished their season with a regular season record of 13-11 (11-9 MIAC) while Concordia improved their record to 18-7(15-5 MIAC).
Both senior captains, Guard Ben Biewen and Wing Jim Hill, managed to score double digit points in the game. Biewen led the men with 19 points while Hill finished right behind Biewen with 12 points.
The Gusties had a tough beginning this year, but managed to be very competitive in the conference season, giving them the opportunity to compete for a playoff spot.
“After a slow start we were very competitive throughout the rest of the conference season. Unfortunately we didn’t get enough wins needed to make the playoffs,” Head Coach Mark Hanson said.
While the team did not make the playoffs or finish the season the way they had hoped, there were still many positives to take away from their season.
“This is always about more than winning. The experience and the process of becoming a close-knit team has meaning well beyond the final spot in the standings,” Hanson said.
Old rivalries amongst MIAC teams as well as the bonds the Gustavus men have formed will continue to fuel their play next year, even after losing some key players to graduation.
“The satisfaction of making bonds you’re going to have for the rest of your life, something that not everybody gets to experience, is a positive thing to take away from this season. We also have some revenge from this season that we need to settle next season, which will help us work hard during the offseason,” Sophomore Wing Jed Kreuser said.
Not only was this the final game of the regular season, but it was also the last basketball game of the careers of both senior captains along with Senior Wing Blake Shay and Senior Post Reed Sallstrom.
“This group of seniors, like many before them, provided leadership, intent, passion, and talent. It is difficult to see their careers come to an end because of what they mean to me, the program, and their teammates,” Hanson said in regards to the importance and impact the seniors made on the team.
“The seniors were very important; a pivotal part of the team. They kept everyone in check during the season. It’s a long season, and they made sure everyone kept their focus. They also did a lot of off-season preparation prior to this season,” Schmid said.
“The captains were unbelievable. I learned more than I thought I could from them. They were the first guys to introduce themselves to me when I came here to Gustavus. All of the seniors on this team are incredible at basketball,” Kreuser said.
The Gustavus men will now begin their off-season; a time for the players to work on their physical strength and conditioning, along with the fundamentals and mental aspects of the game. This will also be a time of adjustment with four senior starters leaving the team and a new first-year class joining next year. For some of the players, the off-season is a great opportunity to help them become better players for next season.
“Since I play post, I want to get stronger and more physical. I want to improve my stamina so I can play just as good in the second half as I did in the first half,” Schmid said.
“Getting in the weight room is something we need to do. It’s a physical game, and we need to bring more intensity to the game. We need others to step up as well since we are losing four starters,” Kreuser said.
Although the team didn’t meet its usual goals, they still managed to improve their game over the course of the season.
“It’s a tradition that we finish as one of the top three teams, and we didn’t do that, nor did we make the playoffs. However, we did improve throughout the season so that is a goal we did accomplish, along with finishing with both a positive overall record and MIAC record. Losing is not a good thing, but there is a silver lining to it. As a team, we know what losing feels like and it makes us not want to feel that way again. Hopefully that will carry on into the next season,” Sophomore Post Dane Schmid said.