|Ethan Eichhorst, top, and
Jesse Robinson, bottom, have helped lead Misericordia to the NCAA
Misericordia athletics photos
Dave Martin has spent more than 20 years at Misericordia, and while he always believed a day like Saturday was possible, he never thought it would happen the way it did.
Yet, there was Martin, the interim head coach of the women’s basketball team, coaching the Cougars to a MAC Freedom conference tournament championship and berth in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history. Misericordia knocked off King’s 64-54 after being tied at 21-21 at halftime.
On that same day, the men’s team that Martin once coached, a team now coached by one of his former players (Trevor Woodruff), was also punching its ticket to the NCAA tournament with a MAC Freedom tourney championship. The Cougars dominated the second half of its game, outscoring Wilkes 45-15 en route to a 65-42 win.
This is why sports is the best reality in the world. You can’t write scripts for moments like this. For Martin, who is also the school’s director of athletics, this was a day he will remember forever, a day that was years in the making.
Misericordia began competing as an NCAA Division III program in 1992. The journey had been filed with ups and downs along the way, all leading up to a day for the ages in school history.
“It’s been a long haul for us,” Martin said. “The way it happened is what makes it so special. Both teams beat rivals in the conference championship game and both teams worked hard to get to where they are today. It’s a big deal for the school.”
Martin wasn’t expecting to be a part of the history from a coaching standpoint. He spent 14 seasons as the men’s coach, and during Woodruff’s senior season, the Cougars lost in the conference title game.
He had spent the last eight as the AD, but when Tom Griffith resigned as the head coach of the women’s team, Martin took over. The Cougars were 9-7 at the time. They are now 17-10 .
It’s not easy coaching to begin with. To take over a team with less than a month to go in the season, well, that just seems like mission impossible.
“I just tried to keep us focused on going forward,” Martin said. “I didn’t want to change too much because it was so late in the season. The transition was very smooth and that is a tribute to the players and the coaches on the staff. Everyone was very accepting of me and bought into what we were trying to do.”
It probably didn’t hurt that one of the assistants on the women’s team, Albie Biggs, played for Martin.
But the Cougars also had plenty of talent. Christine Marks is clicking for 19 points per outing while Hannah Seely (11.3), Jesse Robinson (11.1) and Tyann McDaniel (11.1) are all averaging just over 11 points per game.
The Cougars are averaging 64.7 points per outing and are giving up 55.9.
“We really improved our balance as we went forward,” Martin said. “We have a very strong starting five and those players lost in the conference championship game the year before. They got a taste of it and were motivated to play for a title again. I thought we had the potential to get to the (NCAA) tournament, but I knew nothing was going to come easy. It took a lot of hard work.”
McDaniel scored 15 points in the championship game and was named the MVP of the conference tournament. Marks pumped in points and pulled down 11 rebounds in the win.
The Cougars will play their first tournament game in school history on the road against Tufts on Friday. And while the team has never been on this stage, Martin isn’t too worried.
“I told the players we have to keep our eyes forward. The only game we can do anything about is the one on Friday. I don’t want us to be satisfied. I want us to play as hard as we can and we’ll see how far we can go.”
Although Martin is engulfed in preparation for the NCAA tournament, he will make sure to pay a little attention to the men’s team. He coached the squad for 14 years and won 178 games in that time.
The Cougars have won 12 consecutive games and Ethan Eichhorst and Jeff Slanovec scored 11 points apiece. Slanovec went over 1,000 points for his career.
Martin still has strong ties to the men’s team and is proud for what it has accomplished.
The next stop for the Cougars, who are 21-6, is a date with New York University on the road Thursday night in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. Martin would love to be there to see the historic moment in person, but following the action online will have to do this time around.
“It’s going to be tough not getting to see them play, but obviously I have my own work to do to get ready for our game,” Martin said. “But you better believe I’m going to be by my computer keeping track of the game. I’ll be cheering for them.”
Win or lose, no one can ever take last Saturday away from the Cougars basketball programs.
“It’s very rewarding to see the teams to get to the tournament because of everything that went into the process,” Martin said. “So many people at this school put in a lot of effort to get us to this point and I’m happy both teams get to experience the NCAA tournament. It’s a big moment for everyone involved.”
Men's poll notes
Cabrini nailed down its third consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament on Friday with an 86-79 win over Keystone in the championship game of the Colonial States Athletic Association tournament. Jeremy Knowles led the way for the No. 5 Cavaliers, pouring in 20 points. Freshman Aaron Walton-Moss scored 18 points and grabbed 18 rebounds off the bench en route to being named the MVP of the title game. Cabrini won its 44th consecutive game at home against a conference opponent and this team is the first to win three consecutive titles since the Cavaliers won six consecutive championships between 1993-1998. Cabrini will open the tournament with a home game against Castleton State on Friday... Franklin and Marshall made history, becoming the first team in Centennial Conference history to win three consecutive league tournament championships. The ninth-ranked Diplomats defeated Muhlenberg 71-55 on Saturday to punch a ticket to their fourth consecutive NCAA tourney. It is their 23rd appearance overall. Georgio Milligan poured in 21 points to pave the way. Spencer Liddic scored 15 points and pulled down 10 rebounds for the Mules. Franklin and Marshall will play host to York on Friday night in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. ... William Paterson won its 11th New Jersey Athletic Conference crown with a 67-63 road win over Richard Stockton in the championship game of the conference tournament on Saturday. The No. 12 Pioneers got their biggest lift from conference player of the year Lance Brown, who clicked for 24 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Bill McDonough scored 18 points and tallied 13 rebounds for Richard Stockton.
Women’s poll notes
The unbeaten run continues for Mary Washington. The seventh-ranked Eagles improved to 27-0 with a 50-46 win over York in the Capital Athletic Conference championship game. Katie Wimmer clicked for 15 points to lead the way while Jenna McRae pumped in 14 points. The lead changed hands five times in the second half but the Eagles came out on top in the end as they advanced to the NCAA tournament for the seventh time in eight seasons. ... Juniata was the victim of an upset in the Landmark Conference championship game. The Eagles, ranked No. 15 in the country, fell 79-69 to Catholic in the title game on Saturday. Catholic is headed to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history after winning its first conference championship, and it got the job done behind 23 points from Jill Woerner and Katarina Owunna poured in 22 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. Kelli Josephsen also had a double-double, tallying 11 points and 10 rebounds. Kate McDonald clicked for 18 points and finished with 16 rebounds as well. But the Eagles shot just 34.8 percent from the field as they lost their first game against a conference opponent since January of 2011. ... It was a battle of ranked teams for the New Jersey Athletic Conference tournament championship. In the end, No. 8 William Paterson rallied from a nine-point second-half deficit to earn a 79-69 win over No. 24 Kean. One of the Pioneeers’ two losses during the season came against the Cougars, but behind 16 points and 11 rebounds from conference player of the year April Smith, William Paterson earned its revenge. BriAnna Lucas, the league defensive player of the year, pumped in all 15 of her points in the second half as the Pioneers won their second consecutive title. Naimah Clemons scored 18 to pace the Cougars, who shot 42.7 percent from the field. ... Lebanon Valley rolled to its second consecutive Commonwealth Conference championship with an 80-71 win over Widener on Saturday. The No. 17 Dutchmen played aggressive in the second half and earned 19 attempts at the free-throw line in the final 20 minutes of play. They made all 19 shots to help erase a 37-33 halftime deficit. Kiely Chaklos, who is only a freshman, played like she has been through this experience before, pouring in 27 points to earn MVP honors of the conference tourney. Chaklos also tallied two rebounds, three assists and three steals. Caitlin Bach came through with a double-double, scoring 11 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.
York (Pa.) won its second Capital Athletic Conference in program history on Saturday, topping Mary Washington 59-51. Paul Kouvaris poured in 16 points and pulled down eight rebounds for the Spartans, who are in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2005 when they advanced to the final four. Jeff Gamber will get a chance to coach at least one more game because of the accomplishment. He announced he would retire after this season. ... Alexandra Chil picked a good time to make Centennial Conference history. The Muhlenberg senior star became the all-time scoring leader in Centennial Conference history, scoring 28 to push her career total to 1,996. Her performance helped the Mules beat Johns Hopkins 74-53 to advance to win the conference title for the fifth time in the last seven seasons. ... T.J. Tibbs scored 31 points to help Staten Island men’s basketball team earn a thrilling 82-81 win over Medgar Evers in the championship game of the City University of New York Conference tourney title game. Blooch Magliore added 19 points in the win. ... The Baruch women’s basketball team continued its dominance of the CUNYAC tournament, winning its fifth consecutive title with a 65-49 win over top-seeded Brooklyn. Kiara Johnson paved the way as she dropped in 17 points and earned tourney MVP honors. ... Folashade Akinde added 15 points and nine rebounds in the win. For the first time since the 2006-07 campaign, the Gwynedd-Mercy women’s basketball team has won a Colonial States Athletic Conference championship. The Griffins earned the title with a 68-49 win over Baptist Bible. Shea Wassell was named the MVP of the tourney after scoring 14 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. The title is the sixth under conference coach of the year Keith Mondillo…The Scranton men’s basketball team won its second consecutive Landmark Conference title over the weekend, beating Juniata 78-70. It is the fourth title in five seasons for the Royals, who claimed their 24th NCAA tourney bid overall and fifth in the last seven years. Tommy Morgan dropped in 20 points to lead the way ... AJ Matthews has made an impact all season for Farmingdale State. Nothing changed in the Skyline Conference championship game as Matthews scored 17 points and grabbed 17 rebounds in an 83-64 win over SUNY-Purchase. It was the 25th consecutive double-double for Matthews, who helped the Rams win their first conference tourney crown since 2009. ... Mount St. Mary is still the team to beat on the women’s basketball side of the Skyline Conference. The Knights won their 12th title in 13 seasons on Saturday with a 58-43 win over Farmingdale State. It was their second straight title overall and they got the job done behind tourney MVP Amanda Horvers, who scored 16 points to go along with five rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks. ... The Messiah men’s basketball team won only its second Mid-Atlantic Conference Commonwealth championship in school history when it knocked off Lycoming Valley 68-59 on Saturday. The title is the first since the 2005-06 campaign. David Fernandez, the tourney MVP, scored 16 and the Falcons held the Warriors to 38 percent shooting.
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