Feb. 24, 2012
Seniors look to finish on top Saturday, host #10 Lions
By David Boyce
For the first time all season, Northwest Missouri State men’s basketball team enters a game on a two-game losing streak.
It is quite remarkable the Bearcats have been so consistent after going three straight years without making the conference tournament.
All season Northwest has been atop or near the top in the MIAA standings.
Seniors Kyle Haake and Jake Reinders have been key in the Bearcats enjoying such a successful season.
Although senior Jake Petersen has not played as prominent role this season, the fact that he has played four years at Northwest and stayed loyal is just as important in the fabric of the 2011-12 Bearcats.
“They stuck with a program when they haven’t been to the conference tournament for three straight years,” Northwest coach Ben McCollum said. “They continued to stay positive and believe in what we were doing. They continued to build this program back to where it was.
“I think that is more difficult to do than maintain a successful program. They did a great job of that and now they are getting their senior rewards for it.”
The Bearcats locked up a trip to Kansas City for the MIAA Tournament a long time ago.
Because of the way they played all season, so much more is at stake when the seniors and the rest of Northwest team play their final regular-season game Saturday afternoon at Bearcat Arena against Missouri Southern.
Northwest, 20-5 overall and 14-5 in the MIAA, is locked in a four-way tie for first with Southern, Central Missouri and Washburn.
If Northwest wins, it will claim at least a share of the MIAA title. The Bearcats can also gain the No. 1 seed in the MIAA Tournament. In addition, Northwest could move up in the South Central Regional rankings. They are currently ranked seventh. The top eight teams advance to regional.
“I just want them go play,” McCollum said. “I think they have already considered that, I am sure. The thing I say to them is focus on what we can control and that’s to go out and play hard and execute and if we do those things the results will take care of themselves.”
It will also be senior day and that is always emotional for players who will play their final home game in front of family, classmates and friends.
The Bearcats simply can’t get distracted.
“We need to approach it like any other game,” McCollum said. “I think you get yourself in trouble in you over emphasize things or do things out of the ordinary.
“Our focus is to go back to basic fundamentals and hope that is good enough to pull out another victory.
“We’ve had great practices even the day before we went down to SBU; we had one of our best practices of the season. Right now, we are not carrying it over.
“We have to carry it over defensively, offensively and embrace the grind of a game in the MIAA.”
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