Another engaging men’s basketball season has finally come to a conclusion. With leading scorer Nate Albers ’20 sidelined by injuries, the Oles lost a tough MIAC semi-final playoff game to the nationally-ranked St. John’s. Noah Beck ’20 led the Oles with a team high 13 points, but it wasn’t enough to stop the Johnnies, who shot 53 percent from the field as a team. This was a tough ending to the season, but there were bright spots along the way – most significantly, the revenge first-round playoff victory over Augsburg.
Earlier in the season, Augsburg bested the Oles in a loss that came down to Troy Diggins Jr. ’20 using both hands on a late tip-in at the buzzer. The basket did not count and social media immediately lit up with complaints about the call.
Fast forward to Feb. 25 and the playoffs. The Auggies were heavily favored to win off the incredible scoring abilities of star guard Booker Coplin. After winning Division-3 national player of the year in 2019, Coplin was aiming to lead his squad to the MIAC championship, but the Oles thwarted his ambitions.
Down four points at halftime, the Oles rallied to overcome the small deficit and take the victory by a score of 76-68. In this milestone victory, Albers scored 20 points, which, combined with a dazzling second half show from first year Michael Merrigioli, was enough to put the Auggies’ championship dreams to bed.
The men’s team finished the season with a record of 13-14. Even with the loss of four key seniors, there is plenty to look forward to for next year. The team is young but will be led by Dominic Bledsoe ’21. Also, keep a lookout for Michael Merrigioli ’23 and Jake Weber ’23 to emerge as primary scorers for the Oles next season. With off-season improvements and a rich recruiting class, the men’s basketball team is poised to take the 2020-21 season by storm.