Thanks to good coaching and solid play from the senior players, the men’s basketball team secured a top 25 ranking in the country with a 5-1 start.
After defeating number 16 team, Cal Poly Pomona, to stay undefeated, the Sea Lions received their first top 25 NCAA Division II ranking in school history Junior guard Randall Jackson said he recognizes the significance of the ranking, but realizes that it’s still early in the season.
“It feels great, but we still know at the end of the day that we have a lot of work to do,” Jackson said. “We are not satisfied with the ranking, but we respect the ranking and appreciate it.”
Their veteran presence, led by seniors Hayden Lescault and Marek Klassen, has helped guide them thus far. They also cite their extensive preparation, hard work, good coaching and confidence as keys to their early success.
“We have been going hard in practice every day and come ready to work. We also have been more mature, carried out Coach Carr’s game plans, and have been focused,” Jackson said.
Building off last year’s success, an NCCAA national championship, the team has high expectations and goals for the rest of the season.
“I want to win the conference and be ranked in the top 10 by the end of the season this year,” said senior guard Marek Klassen.
The team looks to thrive off the leadership of 12 upperclassmen to guide them through the conference.
Last week, Dixie State handed PLNU their first loss of the season, winning 54-49. The defense handled the Dixie offense well; however the offense struggled to execute.
“Well our defense was excellent on a team that averages 75 points a game, [they] held them to 54, so that was extremely positive,” Assistant Coach Jordan Courneya. “On the other side, offensively we didn’t do very well, and had way too many turnovers. But that’s conference. Each team kind of knows each other and what they’re going to do, but it’s going to boil down to which team executes better, and Dixie did tonight.”
After falling behind 14 with five minutes left to play in the first half, the Sea Lions fought back to cut the lead to just six by the end of the half. Junior guard Judd Welfringer led the team with 11 points.
With just under a minute left to play, Welfringer had an opportunity to sink the game-tying shot, but the shot rimmed out. That would be the last chance for the Sea Lions, sealing the game for Dixie State. Despite the tough loss against Dixie State, the Sea Lions are looking forward to the rest of the season.
“I’m so optimistic about this team because of how deep we are. We are 15 players deep, with everyone contributing to our success,” Klassen said.
Jackson said this loss makes the team more motivated for the next game.
“We can definitely take away a lot of stuff as far as our defense and our being together as a team,” Jackson said. “It’s a learning experience as far as moving forward, its our first loss of the season, so we are going to come back on Tuesday way more prepared and way more hungry.”
The Sea Lions play at home Dec. 9 against Cal State LA at 7:00 p.m.