Published: March 10, 2016
The University’s men’s basketball team had its impressive season ended after falling to Lynchburg College 82-55 in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
The Royals entered the game after losing to Susquehanna University 77-72 in the Landmark Conference semifinals.
Lynchburg proved to be an incredibly tough opponent, as the Hornets shot 47.5 percent from the field. Lynchburg was also lights-out from beyond the arc, shooting a gaudy 52 percent from the three-point range.
This was the third straight year the Royals were selected to participate in the NCAA tournament.
Despite the way the season ended, senior forward Brendan Boken said the team is proud of its accomplishments this year.
“We’re really proud of us exceeding expectations. A lot of people expected us to not do so well this year. We lost a lot of scoring and talent from last year’s team,” Boken said. “We really came together as a team. We bounced back from a tough loss early in the year against Juniata, who we usually beat, and we were able to fix things and make the playoffs, and eventually the NCAA Tournament.”
Junior center John Vitkus said the team knew they had another opportunity to be successful. However, the Royals also understood Lynchburg would prove to be a tough opponent.
“We knew we had a second chance, and we wanted to take advantage of it as much as we could. A lot of guys were upset after we lost to Susquehanna in the playoffs the game before,” Vitkus said. “Each day of practice that week we went as hard as we could. We knew Lynchburgh was hungry and we knew we were going to need to give it our all against a formidable team.”
The Royals have some work to do, as the team is graduating four seniors, including Boken, who is The University’s all-time scorer. However, the Royals believe they have the pieces to remain competitive in the Landmark Conference.
“Losing the seniors will be tough, since they played such a huge role this year. Boken, Pat (Calvey), Brian (Farrell), Marcus (Thomas), they all filled very different roles,” Vitkus said. “We’re going to have a bit of a tough time replacing them, but I think we’ll be able to put it all together.”
Vitkus mentioned some of the younger players on the team as pieces who will step up next year.
“We have some young guys, sophomore Drew (Schankweiler) had an outstanding year,” Vitkus said. “(Kevin) Doolan being a sophomore helps, too. I’m excited for the freshman class, as well as the new faces we’ll get for next year.”
The Royals went on a long win streak during the year, winning eight straight games from Jan. 20 – Feb. 15. However, the team ended the season on a three-game losing streak, which included a loss to archrival Catholic University.
Vitkus said the loss to Catholic gives the Royals some extra motivation as they already begin preparation for next year.
“We hate to lose to rivals. That definitely puts a spark under us and makes use want to get better in the offseason,” Vitkus said. “Guys are already getting back into the gym, getting shots up and the season just ended. We’re already preparing for the coming year. we’re excited and we know what needs to be done.”
The Royals will certainly be motivated this offseason, as they seek more success.
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