Out of playoff hunt, menƒ?TMs b-ball looks to next year

By William Kennedy

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Despite a late season push, Macalester menƒ?TMs basketball will not make a third consecutive trip to the MIAC playoffs. Combating injuries and inexperience all season, the Scots briefly looked ready for a postseason run after winning three consecutive games in late January and early February. However, removed from the sixth and final playoff spot by only a-game-and-a-half at one point, the Scots never managed to break into the leagueƒ?TMs top teams.

ƒ?oeIt would have been a tall order to make the playoffs,ƒ?? said head coach Curt Kietzer. ƒ?oeNonetheless it felt like it was within our grasp.ƒ??

At 6-12 in conference play, the Scots are currently in ninth place, near the bottom of the MIAC, and were considered a long shot to make the playoffs after starting guards Brad Lidell ƒ?TM08 and Lars Johnson ƒ?TM07 fell to illness and injury early in the year.

The Scots had to fill the spots with inexperienced players and while Macƒ?TMs regular season shortcomings were not unexpected, they were frustrating, especially if you consider how close the Scots were to making the playoffs. Following their three-game win streak Mac was in the thick of it, competing with several teams for the last playoff.

But two weeks ago everything went south after a close home loss to Hamline was followed by a demoralizing 61-62 defeat at the hands of then first place Carleton. With their post-season hopes all but destroyed, Mac was mathematically eliminated from contention on February 8 after losing to St. Johnƒ?TMs 64-73.

ƒ?oeWeƒ?TMve had an up and down year,ƒ?? Macƒ?TMs center and leading scorer Tom Conboy ƒ?TM08 said. ƒ?oeWe worked hard, went out and competed, but ultimately we didnƒ?TMt get as many wins as we wouldƒ?TMve liked.ƒ??

Struggling in the face of poor shooting and perpetual turnovers, victories were hard to come by for the Scots who have won less than half of their conference and non-conference games this year. Many of those loses came in close games, and many of the teamƒ?TMs struggles, forward Jesse Hollander ƒ?TM07 says, can be explained by the teams lack of experience.

ƒ?oeClosing out games was our weakest spot,ƒ?? he said. ƒ?oeThatƒ?TMs pretty characteristic for a young team.ƒ??
If youth and inexperience were the problem, then the 2005-2006 season should go a long way toward solving those problems. Players like Nate Assel ƒ?TM09 and Brian Ranwick ƒ?TM08, who saw their first significant minutes in varsity college games played key roles in the Scots season, something that can only mean good things for the future, Kietzer said.

ƒ?oeAfter a year of experience weƒ?TMre going to be much stronger going into next [season].ƒ??

Mac will look to cut down its loses next year, but the team faces two unavoidable ones as forwards Brendan Bosman ƒ?TM06 and Terrence Robinson-Wilson ƒ?TM06 will graduate at the end of the season.

Kietzer had nothing but praise for his teamƒ?TMs only seniors. ƒ?oeThey have brought great leadership, thatƒ?TMs something youƒ?TMre always hoping for,ƒ?? he said. ƒ?oeI was pleased with how positive they were through some difficult times.ƒ??

Robinson-Wilson, who sat out last year with a torn achilles tendon, saw his first varsity time this season, establishing himself as a defensive presence on the court. ƒ?oeTerrence is our best defensive player,ƒ?? Kietzer said. ƒ?oeWeƒ?TMre able to put him on [our opponents] best player to slow them down.ƒ??

Bosman, who also missed some time last season while studying abroad, averaged over 13 points and six rebounds a game for the Scots this year. ƒ?oeBos really worked hard in the off-season and in addition to the leadership he displayed, he was probably our best all around player,ƒ?? Kietzer said.

Their absence will leave some substantial gaps for Macalester to fill next year, but the Scots will have time to address that during the off-season. For now the Scots say they are focused on playing some good basketball, building momentum for next year, and hopefully, Conboy says, ƒ?oewinning one for Bos and Terrence.ƒ??

The Scots final game of the season will take place Saturday, February 18 at 3:15 p.m. in the Macalester gym against Augsburg.