The Royals reigned victorious at the Landmark Conference Championships as the men’s and women’s basketball teams both took home first place Saturday.
The men’s team had home court advantage against Moravian College while the women’s team took home the title on the road against Catholic University.
Saturday’s win marks the seventh Landmark Conference Championship title in the past 10 years for the Royals.
The 68-63 victory brought the Royals their 21st win of the season and secured them a bid in the NCAA playoff tournament that begins Friday.
The triumph was especially satisfying to the Royals who had previously lost to Moravian College in January. The Royals were also looking for redemption, as they were knocked out of play in last year’s semifinals round of the Landmark Conference playoffs.
Senior John Vitkus was named championship MVP after recording a career high 27 points along with five rebounds, two blocks and a steal.
“Last year we got knocked out of the Conference Championship in the semifinal game against Susquehanna and they went on to play Catholic who ended up winning the Championship last year. Beating Catholic in the semifinal game this year and going one step further than last year and winning the championship as a senior has to be the most satisfying part of winning this season’s Landmark Conference Championship,” Vitkus said.
Junior Drew Schankweiler, who pulled down the game-high six rebounds, noted that bringing home the title in the Long Center made it all the more special for the players.
“The most satisfying part of winning the Landmark this year was that we are able to do it on our home court in front of all of our friends, family and other fans. Hosting the championship and winning it at home is a goal we set every year and we were finally able to do it,” Schankweiler said.
With the victory earning them an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, the Royals will now play on a national platform, facing teams from across the country.
Junior Chris McCullough noted that the Royals are eager to show off their talent to a larger crowd.
“I am most excited to show the country how good of a team we really are because most of the season nobody was thinking about us on national stage, but now we have the chance to show how good we really are,” McCullough said.
The Royals have built a strong momentum heading into the tournament and are looking forward to keeping it going as they advance.
“Winning 10 of our last 11 games has certainly been a thrilling ride and a great way to end our regular season heading into the NCAA tournament. You want to be the hot team heading into the tournament and I would say that applies to us. We feel great with the way we are playing right now and are excited to play again in the tournament,” Schankweiler said.
They play next on Friday against State University of New York at Oswego at Williams College in Massachusetts.
Saturday’s victory brought the Lady Royals their second consecutive Landmark Conference Championship title.
As the reigning Landmark Conference champions, the Lady Royals were under a lot of pressure at Saturday’s game, but continued to shine as they have all season long.
Saturday’s 58-42 victory against Catholic University was especially exciting for the Lady Royals who had previously lost to the Cardinals in January. Beating the Cardinals on their home court was a bonus.
After losing three games in January, the Lady Royals turned their season around, and are undefeated since. The team attributes its success to a few factors, but mainly defense and perseverance.
Senior Sarah Payonk reflected on the work the team has put into strengthening itself in all aspects of the game.
“Our commitment to the defense is what got us to the championship and what helped us to solidify the win. Even at times when our offense wasn’t going well, our defense kept us in the game,” Payonk said.
The Lady Royals were able to maintain a consistent lead throughout Saturday’s game, and were able to seal their fate in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Cardinals 15-6.
Senior Alexix Roman, who recorded 17 points in Saturday’s competition, noted that the road to become Landmark Conference Champions was a difficult one.
“We never gave up. We always stuck together through it all. It was difficult for us to get here. We worked every day in practice and it really showed Saturday, it all came together,” Roman said.
The back-to-back Landmark Conference champions will now host the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. The team advanced to the Elite 8 round of the tournament last season, and hopes to advance even further this year.
The Lady Royals play next against The University of New England at home Friday at 7 p.m.