With the playoffs quickly approaching, the Elizabethtown College men’s basketball team has just about a month to finish the 2011-2012 season. This season has had its fair share of victories and losses. Currently, the Blue Jays have an overall record of 6-10 and 2-4 in their conference.
Over winter break, the team lost their games to Eastern University and Albright University while succeeding against Gwynedd-Mercy College and Widener University, leaving the Blue Jays with a record of 5-9. A much needed victory against Lebanon Valley College on Jan. 18 proved the men’s basketball team was prepared for the playoffs.
“The victory against Lebanon Valley kept us in pace for the playoffs,” Head Coach Bob Schlosser said, “and I believe they’re ready.”
The team’s speed and depth in the second half catapulted Etown to victory in last Wednesday’s game. Nearly eight minutes into the game, the Dutchmen and Blue Jays were tied with 16 points. Etown sophomore Joe Schwalm collected the first points of the night for the team, followed by fellow sophomore Andrew Mantz with six points of his own. Neither school held the lead for too long as it switched several times throughout the first half. The Blue Jays led 35-32 at halftime.
The Dutchmen finally gained back the lead at the 2:50 mark after a closely-matched game. Etown reestablished the lead with points generated by Mantz, Schwalm, first-year Will Schlosser and senior Kyle McConnell.
According to Schlosser, the victory against Lebanon Valley was a result of their tenacious defense applying more intensity and that the team as a whole has been improving.
“The defensive effort was the best this year,” Schlosser said. Schwalm commented on the win, labeling the game against Lebanon Valley as “a big rivalry and that added some extra motivation.” This victory left the team tied for the fourth spot in order to make the playoffs.
This past Saturday, Etown faced off against Alvernia University. At the beginning of the game, the teams were neck-and-neck. However, Alvernia junior Josh Vargas changed the game during a 24-2 run near the end of the first half. The Crusaders held the lead at 40-19 come halftime.
In order to extinguish the gap, the Blue Jays attempted a combination of lineups. Etown first-year Lee Eckert brought the score to 59-42 in the second half with a pair of free throws. Out of 58 attempted shots, Etown finished with just 17 for the evening. The final score resulted in Alvernia winning 80-52.
No matter which team they are up against, the Blue Jays practice the same way. After Saturday’s game left Lebanon Valley and Alvernia ahead in the conference, Etown continues to focus on their execution rather than worrying about the other teams. This strategy helps the team improve through the season.
Like any other team, the goal for the Blue Jays is to reach the playoffs. “I think the main thing for making a playoff run [is] getting wins on the road,” Eckert said.
Senior captains Dan Silver and McConnell set the tone for the rest of the team. “It starts with them,” Schlosser said. Both captains play major roles on and off the court that contribute to the team’s unity.
Also, McConnell reached a career benchmark during the game against Alvernia. The Etown senior acquired a team-best three assists, which gave McConnell 305 total assists in his career. This tied him for tenth all-time in program history. In order to head to the playoffs, the Blue Jays will need to continue to stay confident and focus on one game at a time.