By AMIR KOREHI
At 5:30 a.m., they hopped in their vehicles in Fredericksburg and headed north, hoping to beat the I-95 traffic and the crazy stop and go that Washington D.C. has to offer. As they arrived to what they thought was their destination, in the pouring down rain, they were told they were on the completely opposite side of campus from where they needed to be. This is the initial story of the travels of the University of Mary Washington men’s club basketball team.
A few weeks prior, Co-President Will Ritter received an invite from the University of Maryland’s club basketball program to compete in their tournament. This tournament was said to feature 13 Division I programs, along with three Division III teams, including UMW. The tournament was said to include the likes of University of Virginia, University of Maryland, Drexel, University of Richmond, William & Mary, Virginia Tech, Old Dominion University, University of Maryland along with four other Division I programs as West Virginia University dropped out last minute.
A number of the team members sat across campus as it poured outside, confused as to where their next move was. Hungry and eager to play some basketball, they hopped in their cars and drove miles across campus to get to their destination. As the club team rode around campus, they were amazed by the size, as UMW’s campus walk makes up only a fraction of the entire campus that is University of Maryland. The students at UMD working the gym laughed when the UMW students talked of the size of their school, both students and dimensions.
Upon arrival at the gym, the University of Mary Washington team was given about an hour to warm up and get prepared for their first game, William & Mary. Come 10:30 a.m., it was game time for the two teams. Out of the gates, William & Mary was hot, picking apart the 2-3 zone defense the UMW team offered up. After about six minutes of play, the team realized the zone was not in their favor and switch to man-to- man defense.
This switch proved pivotal, as UMW was finally able to get some stops as they looked to narrow the gap that had been created. At halftime, Mary Washington was down by about 20 points, though refused to put their heads down. Out of the gate, junior Jey Lewis sparked the team, making some crucial three pointers and dishing out some impressive assists, notably to sophomore and former varsity basketball player T.J. Flood.
The Eagles fought and began to become a collective force, knocking their lead down to single digits. Despite the collective efforts from Lewis and Flood, UMW wound up short, as William & Mary defeated them by 10 points.
Due to the dropping out of West Virginia, UMW was prompted to play three straight games, with their next game against UVA. Mary Washington watched UVA play against William & Mary prior to their first game, where UVA handed William & Mary a defeat with relative ease. So, UMW was quite nervous going up against the club team from Charlottesville.
UVA pulled away, just like William & Mary had, grabbing a double digit lead with relative ease, taking a lead at one point upwards of 24. Shots were not falling for UMW, as their defense itself was having a number of blunders. With glimpses of success coming from Flood and sophomore Brandon Martin, UVA still pulled away at halftime, taking a lead of about 20 points, looking to be an in the bag game for Virginia.
The second half proved different, as Flood took over for Mary Washington, getting to the basket continuously, knocking down threes and being a force on the defensive end. There was officially a game once again, as the lead was narrowed tremendously. It was getting down to single digits when sophomore Sammie Mirghani hit a three and he and Flood put up good defensive stops.
With 10 seconds left, Mary Washington was down by just two points after their stretch of good offense and great defensive stops. After a defensive blunder and some successful free throws, UMW ultimately fell to UVA by 5 points.
10 minutes following their game against UVA, Mary Washington was back in action against Lynchburg. UMW was hot out of the gate, as they reached out to a double-digit lead early in the first half, a lead they would not let go of. For this game, it was Ritter who took control of the offensive side of the ball, scoring a game high 25 points, while grabbing roughly around 10 rebounds. Alongside Ritter, the entire team came alive on both ends of the ball, scoring consistently and stopping the defense with ease.
The Eagles went into halftime up by 15, which they were not happy enough with. They came out of the half firing on all cylinders. Ritter’s offensive production, combined with Flood’s all-around play and the rest of the team doing their share of the workload, gave the Eagles a 24-point victory over Lynchburg to put them at 1-2 on the day.
The Eagles returned on Sunday for tournament play, eager and ready to bring a title back to Fredericksburg. They were pitted against William & Mary once again. This game against William & Mary proved very similar for Mary Washington. They had quite the slow start, falling very behind, very early. Once the second half began they came out firing until the very last second. Though that was the case, the Mary Washington Club basketball teams tournament ended in a three-point loss to William & Mary in the first round of tournament play.
Though, their overall record may have been 1-3, UMW proved themselves at University of Maryland club basketball tournament, showing that they are a force to be reckoned with. Tournaments are planned for the future. The club basketball program can be found at Goolrick gym, Monday, Tuesday and Thursday practicing from 6:30 – 8:00 P.M.