The ups and downs of the 2017-2018 basketball season has primed both teams for their own shot at the Little East Conference (LEC) tournament this year, but neither came out on top.
Keene State College’s women’s basketball team had a tough rebuilding year with primarily young athletes getting a lot of game time, but every year is a new season, according to women’s basketball coach Keith Boucher.
Boucher said the team last year had been playing together for a few years and developed faith and confidence in each other over time.
He also said that he hopes the team this year will grow and write its own game plan.
“They have to go through their own progression… along the way it’s going to be stumbling blocks, but stumbling blocks are the stepping stones. I think people that are successful view failure as a way to learn and that’s what we have to do, learn from mistakes in order to get better,” Boucher said.
The women’s overall record was 6-20, which included their loss against Southern Maine in the LEC quarterfinals, officially bringing their season to an end.
Senior Captain Sandi Purcell said it was a tough loss because it was definitely a game that they could have won.
However, Purcell said there were many injuries throughout the season, including her own, that contributed to the numerous obstacles the team faced.
She further indicated how the first-years were more or less thrown into the fire and expected not to burn.
“They got put into a role right away that they couldn’t be a freshman. They had to step up and be willing to share their skills with us. As for the sophomores, Kenzie and Hien especially, completely took on leadership roles that they weren’t expected to, but did,” Purcell said.
Coach Boucher said Purcell was a great role model for the team and an extremely hard worker.
“We lost one senior but she’s a great player, Sandi, unfortunately she got hurt this year she broke her foot, which clearly hurt our team. When you talk about competitive character, she’s small but I don’t know if there’s anybody on the court that’s tougher than her when she competes,” Boucher said.
He continued, “I’m hoping they learn that lesson from her when you step across the lines and it’s time to compete, you compete until the horn goes off, you play to the clock not to the score. If they take that away from watching her they’re going to be better for it come next year,” Boucher said.
When asked about advice to leave her team, Purcell said, “Now looking back I don’t have another practice to get better at, I don’t have another game to look forward to, so as hard as the early-morning workouts are and as hard as practice can be sometimes, or as frustrating… the time management is, you really just have to embrace it and love it because if I could tell them one thing it would be to love it with everything you have for the last moments that you have.
Overall, Boucher said he was pleased with his team’s growth and thinks they have a lot of potential.
He said however, potential does not mean much if it doesn’t equate to performance.
“The team will put a lot of hard work in this spring and summer so when they come back, they’re ready to take the next step,” Boucher said.
As for the men’s basketball team, they also had a lot of younger players rise to the occasion, and a couple well-trained upperclassmen taking on new roles this season.
Men’s basketball coach Ryan Cain said it was a fun year and they had a different group of guys than in the past.
“We had seven new faces on the team, it was neat to get those guys integrated into our program and see how they develop throughout the season. It’s also a lot of fun to watch some of these older guys take on different leadership roles and roles that I think help them grow as people and not just as basketball players,” Cain said.
The men’s season record was 19-9 overall, winning two LEC playoff games, but ended up losing in the championship to Eastern Connecticut state 79-62.
During the midst of the playoffs Cain talked about the team’s mindset during the tournament.
“It’s always nice to get into the postseason and perform well. Fortunately and unfortunately sometimes the last game doesn’t really have a heck of a lot of impact on the next game. We want to take every opponent very serious and not think that you’re playing better than you actually are,” Cain said.
At the semifinal game against UMass Boston, Cain said the team’s goal was a chance to compete in the LEC championship, but he emphasized that you can’t go on to the next game if you don’t win your first.
“We need to jump two feet into Boston and not worry about the tournament setting, focus on other things that they’re good,” Cain said.
Sure enough, the Owls soared past the Beacons with a 95-84 victory.
On Feb. 24, KSC, the number two seeded, played Eastern Connecticut State, the top seeded, in the LEC conference championship and lost.
Cain said he thinks his team has had the most success in their conference tournaments the last few years because they embrace the moment and enjoy competing in a win or go home setting.
“We had a lot of fun and play some of our best basketball during it. Despite losing a lot of guys last year, we have returning players back that understood what it took to have some success in this type of setting and the younger guys are listening to those older guys,” Cain said.
The Keene State’s men’s basketball 2017-18 season officially ended when the team did not receive an at-large bid in the Nation Collegiate Athletic Association [NCAA] Division III Tournament.
Coach Cain talked about the brotherhood of the players this year in depth and discussed how supportive the upperclassmen were of the younger players.
“Our seniors have been around the longest and they have been a huge impact on a program. Dizel has been the guy that’s been through it all despite some injuries over the last couple years. He’s a guy that competes and plays as hard as anybody you know,” Cainsaid. “He’s healthy now and for someone like that you want to see them have the opportunity to play for play for a championship again.”
Overall, Cain said that there was a lot of trust on the court, support on the benches, and all genuinely wanted to see the best for their teammates.
Julia Eichman can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org