A tough loss against Bethel University knocked the Gustavus Men’s Basketball team out of the MIAC Playoffs, however the Gusties rallied to finish their season on a high note.
The Gusties fell in a tight contest to conference rival Bethel on February 10 after holding a three point lead at halftime. In the second half, the Gusties came out strong and extended their lead to 10 points before the Royals came surging back. After 11 lead changes in the final 10 minutes of the game, the Gusties ended up falling just short by a score of 69-70. Sharbono led the way for the Gusties with 25 points on 9-12 shooting with a season-high five three-pointers.
“Second half I thought we played much better offensively. We didn’t turn it over as much and were reasonably efficient, but it hurts to lose that one,” Head Coach Mark Hanson said.
Despite the loss to Bethel that put an end to the Gusties playoff hopes, they came out strong in their final game against No. 3-ranked St. John’s University. The game was close from the start, with seven lead changes in the first six minutes. The Johnnies are considered the nation’s top shooting team, and proved why in the first half, going 9-17 from beyond the arc for a 53 percent three-point percentage. The Gusties kept the game close, however, by scoring 16 points off of seven forced turnovers. At halftime, they trailed 42-35.
The Johnnies controlled the pace of play out of the gate in the second half, and extended their lead to 11 points after the first five minutes of play. Over the next seven minutes, the Gusties put together a 16-5 run that was sparked by a number of big shots from different players and all around lockdown defense. With 8:23 left in the game, the scored was knotted at 55-55.
Although the Gusties played hard for the remainder of the game and had a number of chances to retake the lead, the Johnnies proved too steady at the freethrow line, and secured a 78-73 win.
“It really shows that we can play with anybody in the country. It’s awesome to see how we’ve improved throughout the season,” Senior Austin Goetz said.
The last time these teams met it resulted in a 22-point loss for the Gusties.
“I’ve been proud of our energy throughout the season. Not every choice we made, but our intent and our energy has been as much as I could expect and sometimes more,” Hanson said.
Junior Riley Sharbono led the way for the Gusties with 17 points, while junior Brandon Snoberger added a career-high 15, and junior Spencer Tollefson contributed 11 more. The Gusties were strong defensively, holding the Johnnies to just 34.6 percent shooting in the second half.
Hanson said he was very impressed with the team’s resilience and hard work this season.
“We were a better defensive team, from the beginning of the year to the end,” Hanson said.
With the loss, the Gustie Men finish their season with a 12-13 record and an even 10-10 in the MIAC. This is more than twice as many wins as last season, and the Gusties will look to build on their returning talent in the offseason. “Everyone plays for each other here. We all move the ball really well and I think we all play for the next guy up and that dedication for each other really makes everything run better,” Senior Kelsey Thomas said.
Thomas and Goetz were among the six seniors honored before the game for their commitment to the program. Joining them were seniors Jason Faul, Kelsey Thomas, Schuyler Thompson, and Coleman Sweeney. This senior class is known for its grit and rapid development into crucial components of the Gustie Basketball family.
This offseason, the team will look to improve with strength and conditioning, skill work, and maturity, according to Hansen. They’ll hope to continue their upward trajectory into the 2018-2019 campaign.