Senior-powered Gulls enjoying the ride

More news about: Endicott
Endicott's six seniors (left to right): Daquan Sampson, Drew Sawyer, Chris Lipscomb, Max Motroni, Stephen Basden, Kamahl Walker
Endicott athletics photo

By Matt Noonan 

It sounds cliché, but Endicott College men’s basketball coach Kevin Bettencourt says the secret to the Gulls’ success is to take it ‘day-by-day.’

The third year coach’s approach is a big reason why Endicott made history this past weekend, earning a pair of NCAA Tournament wins over Nichols College and Salisbury University en route to the program’s first-ever appearance in the round of 16.
“The outpouring of support has been great,” said a humble Bettencourt, who guided the Gulls to single-season record 24 wins.   
“The emails haven’t stopped and my phone hasn’t stopped ringing, which is great, but we’re all trying to enjoy this moment, while also knowing that we still have some more work to do.”
The Gulls’ journey for the moment is far from over. They’ll return to their home gym the next few days, prepare the same way they did last week and then board a bus Thursday to Middlebury, Vermont where the Gulls will play the host Panthers (26-3). Endicott scored its signature win of the season when it beat the Panthers 93-89 in Vermont on Nov. 29. In that game Endicott rallied from a 17-point deficit with Kamahl Walker scoring 28 points. Endicott has won the last two meetings with the Panthers.
Endicott, which advanced to this year’s NCAA Tournament for the third consecutive season, earned an at-large bid following a disappointing setback two weeks ago in the Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) Championship against Nichols College.
The loss stung as the Gulls missed the chance to win their third consecutive league crown. But two days after the disappointing defeat, Bettencourt and his crew learned their season was far from over when the NCAA unveiled the 64-team bracket.
Endicott’s first-round opponent: the Salisbury Sea Gulls, who were also an at-large bid after falling to Christopher Newport in the Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) title game.
Since arriving to campus in August 2014, Bettencourt has made an impact on the men’s basketball program, guiding the Gulls to a pair of league crowns and three NCAA Tournament appearances in his first three seasons. Each year Endicott has gone one step farther in the NCAA tournament. In 2015 the Gulls were sent on the road to Stockton in the first round and lost 81-61. Last year the Gulls were again matched up against a host, but this time the Gulls defeated Catholic 84-76 before bowing out in an overtime loss to Wooster in the second round. This year the Gulls earned a neutral court game against Salsibury, whom Endicott beat, and then the Gulls beat CCC rival Nichols in the second round.
Max Matroni scored 34 points in Endicott's win over Nichols in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Endicott athletics photo 
“We have a very talented roster and Kevin has done a great job of getting everyone to trust one another on the court,” said Endicott assistant coach Luke Richards. 
“It doesn't always look good at the start of the season, but the past three seasons we have played our best basketball heading into the conference tournament and that's a testament to Kevin (and his dedication to the program).”  
Bettencourt, however, won’t take all the credit for his program’s recent success. He claims the real reason Endicott has enjoyed an impressive run is due to his players’ dedication to the team, specifically the seniors that “have put us in this position to be successful.” Endicott starts five seniors and three of them -- Walker, Max Motroni and Daquan Sampson -- were named All-Conference.
“Our seniors established our program’s culture, the work ethic and all of it,” Bettencourt said of his seniors’ leadership. “They have a ton of ability on top of it, too, but our team chemistry stems from our seniors – they’re our leaders."

Last weekend Walker and Motroni came up big in the Gulls' two wins. On Friday night they combined for 40 of Endicott's 71 points with Walker scoring 32. On Saturday, they scored another 49 points, this time with Motroni leading the way with 34 points on 12-for-16 shooting. Lipscomb (19 points) and Sampson (11 points) also reached double figures.
Said Richards, “Our guys had a lot of confidence heading into the NCAA Tournament and that comes from Kevin. He expects a lot from our guys and holds them to high standards and they give it back to him in return.”
The seniors will indeed be counted on this weekend, especially if they want to extend their campaign to Salem, Virginia. Again, they’re a big reason Endicott is in this position to do so.   
“We’re just trying to have fun at this point of the season,” said Bettencourt.
“Almost not being invited to this year’s NCAA Tournament made this past weekend more special for all of us because we were granted more time together, and these guys just love playing basketball together, too, so it was really special to see everything come together and hopefully we can continue to build on it.”
For now, Bettencourt and the Gulls will keep the focus on taking it day-by-day, while improving each day, too. That's what has made Bettencourt’s Gulls successful the past three seasons. They’ll keep the focus on having fun, while they preparing for the rematch with the NESCAC champions.
Said Richards, “It's been a pretty wild ride this past week-and-a-half. We went from thinking our season was over after losing to Nichols to preparing for a ‘Sweet Sixteen’ game against Middlebury. As a staff, we were excited to get an at-large bid because we have such a special group of guys; especially our six seniors and we just weren't ready for it to end. “
Endicott’s run toward has been exciting, but as Bettencourt reiterated, these past few seasons are a tribute to the seniors’ determination to be the best they can every day. And you can bet they’ll be ready to play their best basketball on Friday evening. 
“I am just so thankful that we have been able to grow with these six seniors,” said Bettencourt.