Eastern Connecticut athletics photo
For the third consecutive season, the Eastern Connecticut State men’s basketball team claimed the Little East Conference regular season crown after the Warriors defeated UMass Boston this past weekend.
Eastern Connecticut secured a 31-26 advantage at the break before relying on its defense in the second session to secure a five-point victory (69-64) against the Beacons. Trachone Preston led the unit with 26 points, while Hugh Lindo registered a double-double of 15 points and 12 rebounds.
With the regular season officially over, Bill Geitner – the head coach of the Warriors – has nothing but praise for his unit, which accomplished a few of the team’s preseason goals en route to capturing the regular season crown.
“I am happy for our guys,” said Geitner, who guided the Warriors to a 17-8 overall record and 11-3 conference ledger. “I think we have proven when we can go out and compete, we can play well together.
“(Two of our goals) from Oct. 15 were to put ourselves in a position going into our final regular season contest to have an opportunity to win the regular season (title) and host the tournament. We have (accomplished both goals), so now we have to go out and take care of business (on Tuesday).”
Playing a team for the third time has its advantages, according to Geitner, with both units being familiar with schemes and players.
“Preparation-wise for Tuesday’s game is a little easier,” said Geitner, who guided his squad to a pair of wins over the Beacons this season. “Our team will have a good gauge on who they are competing against, so I think that works for (both teams).”
Tuesday’s contest against the Beacons marks the second time in three seasons both teams have met in the conference tournament. In the last meeting, the Warriors defeated the Beacons in the opening round before advancing to the conference tournament championship in 2014.
Winning the regular season title for the third straight season is a testament to Geitner and his staff. The Warriors’ road to the top wasn’t easy as they faced strong competition, both in and out of their league.
“I think (all our non-conference games) served as a measuring stick,” said Geitner. “We realized going into the season that our non-conference schedule was very difficult. We wanted to test ourselves against some of the best teams in New England, while going down to Daytona to play a LaGrange team that is regionally ranked in its region.
“We felt like this group was ready for (this slate of games) and I think we have taken some lumps along the way, but our philosophy is those games will to prepare us for (success) in the conference tournament, especially the games we played against Amherst and Trinity.”
Playing some of the best competition has transformed the Warriors into a team that appears destined for a deep postseason run – not just in the Little East, but also the Division III NCAA Tournament, too. These games have taught this unit about resiliency – a current trend Geitner and his staff have noticed that has helped the squad overcome various obstacles and setbacks from the past few weeks and months.
Said Geitner, “Our philosophy is never get too high after a win and never get too low after a loss, but (after a recent double-digit setback to Keene State), our guys (arrived at practice the following day) ready to compete and learn from the things that happened in that particular game, and I expect them to be ready to go again today and tomorrow (and the next day).”
Battle-tested and resilient, while adhering to Geitner’s philosophy on wins and losses, these Warriors are ready to contend for the program’s second conference tournament crown since the 2011-12 school year.
A pair of 1,000-pointers
Shawn Conrad and the Anna Maria men’s basketball team have accomplished a lot as a program over the past 11 seasons. But one of the more recent accomplishments has been honoring a pair of players eclipsing the 1,000-point mark three times over the past seven seasons.
Reaching 1,000 points may seem like the norm these days, but Conrad’s players are not focused on individual accomplishments, but instead helping their team compete for a Great Northeast Athletic Conference crown.
“I think that when players have been playing this long and reach this level they understand that it’s not about them as individuals, but more about the success of the team,” said Conrad. “The success of the team will be what defines their careers and any individual accomplishments that come along (afterward) is a bonus.
“It is very gratifying to see indi accomplish milestones within the team concept. Players devote so much of their time and efforts for the good of the team, so to be able to recognize them individually when they achieve a milestone like this is so well deserved.”
The first pair to reach the feat together was Junior De La Hoz and Chris Pinsonault in 2011. Two seasons later, Anthony Click and Brad Peterson became the second duo to accomplish the feat, while this season it was seniors Patrick Bradanese and Tyler Delorey.
Bradanese is a two-time GNAC players of the week, earning it the second time this season on Monday. He is currently averaging 19.8 points per game and leads the conference in assists per game with 5.6. Delorey ranks second on the team in points per game, averaging 14.1 points per contest. He tallied a season-high 27 points earlier this month when the AMCATs defeated Suffolk, 81-70.
“Both (players) are pretty soft spoken and lead by example,” said Conrad. “They both love the game and play it constantly. And nobody works harder in the off-season than these two.
“They are both very humble, very friendly by nature and have embraced new recruits as equal team members just as they were embraced when they arrived here.”
Fortunately for Conrad, both players will be on the court Tuesday evening when the AMCATs host Emmanuel in the conference quarterfinal.
“We need everyone to make contributions to have a chance, but no doubt, the biggest contributions must come from Tyler and Pat,” said Conrad. “My expectation is that they will be as they’ve played in a lot of big games in their careers and they’ve worked hard for these very moments.”