BY ZACH MORETTI
A 21-point Senior Day victory over Stevenson University Saturday afternoon sent the University of Mary Washington men’s basketball upperclassmen off in proper fashion.
“I was most pleased with getting my three seniors a victory here on their day,” Coach Rod Wood said. “They worked hard and deserved this day. It was also nice because it ensured that we would finish with a winning season.”
The three seniors Wood referred to were forward Kiernan Whitworth and guards Kevin Storus and Matt Hale. Though Storus didn’t fill up the stat sheet, only scoring two points and grabbing three boards, his hustle and intensity were crucial and his impact on the game could not be measured by statistics alone.
Meanwhile, Whitworth scored 12 points while pulling in six rebounds and Hale had 18 points to go along with five rebounds and five assists.
“It felt great to get a win [on my Senior Day], especially in such a dominating fashion,” Hale said. “I didn’t want to have this day spoiled by losing, so when we were able to come out victorious it just felt really good.”
The game was filled with runs by both squads and it was much closer then the final score indicated. Mary Washington jumped out to a 21-12 lead with just under 10 minutes remaining in the first half, but Stevenson went on an 8-2 run to cut the lead to a mere three points.
However, the Eagles responded with a 20-5 run to extend the lead to 18 points with less than a minute and 30 seconds left in the half. Stevenson, unfazed, ended the half on a 5-0 run of their own to cut the lead to 13 at intermission.
Stevenson seemed to carry some momentum from that 5-0 run before the break and took advantage of the Eagles carelessness with the ball to begin the second half. Mary Washington turned the ball over multiple times in the first 10 minutes of the frame and allowed the Mustangs to trim what was once an 18-point lead to just four.
“Turnovers have killed us all year,” Wood explained. “We had 17 of them today and that’s just too many. We to have a killer instinct and put a team away when we have them down like that. [Instead] we went to sleep out there and let them back in the game. That’s simply unacceptable.”
Luckily for Eagle’s fans, Mary Washington woke back up after Coach Wood took a timeout with the score at 54-50 and the team responded by going on a 14-0 run to put the lead back up to 18.
Wood made it clear that the defensive strategy didn’t change late in the game.
“We didn’t make any adjustments [defensively]. I just gave them some encouragement and told them that it was up to them now to step up and get stops.”
It might not have been excellent defense from the Eagles that stopped Stevenson, but more the Mustangs stopping themselves. Despite continually getting open shots, Stevenson couldn’t get anything to fall, finishing the game shooting a dreadful 35.2 percent from the field and connecting on only eight of 31 three-point attempts.
Greg Woody led Stevenson with 17 points and though it was a day to honor the seniors, Junior Brandon Altmann led Mary Washington in scoring for the eighth straight game, as he posted 25 points while adding 14 rebounds.
With the victory, the Eagles finish the regular season at 13-11 overall and 10-6 in the conference, which was good for the three seed in the upcoming CAC Tournament.
When asked if he thought the Eagles had a tournament run in them, Hale seemed confident in the team’s ability.
“Definitely,” Hale said. “We beat Wesley once here and lost in overtime at their place. And while we lost both games against St. Mary’s, once was by only two and the other was in overtime. We have to be careful not to overlook [York], but I believe if we play our game that we can beat anyone.”
The Eagles took down York College of Pa. on Tuesday with strong play by Altmann who led the team in scoring once again with 26 points, adding 17 rebounds. The team earned a spot in the CAC semifinals at Wesley College, tonight at 7 p.m.