Basketball’s winning season comes to a close
Hunter O. Lyle – Sports Editor
The basketball season at Southern is officially over, with the final mark coming from the men’s 86-71 loss to Stonehill in NE10 tournament. Over the course of the 27 game season, the men’s basketball team saw a lot of development, highlights, excitement and a playoff berth.
Southern was able to claim a winning record of 16 -11, claiming the third seed and a byeweek for the playoffs, an improvement over last year when the team was the fourth seed. Head coach Scott Burrell said while he is happy overall, there were a few chances the Owls missed out on.
“Ups and downs. I think guys got better, which you hope,” said Burrell. “Some games you lost that you wished you never lost. You look back at games you had a chance to win, you should have won and they slipped away. Hopefully guys learn from it. As the season goes on you hopefully learn for next year.”
The regular season started in Bridgeport, with the Bridgeport Conference Crossover Challenge, where the Owls faced off against Post University for their first game, and ended in Garden City, N.Y., against NE10 opponent Adelphi. In between those games, the team saw the rise of guard Lyron Bennett, a true freshman.
Throughout his first season with the program, Bennett said he saw himself transform into a better basketball player, as well as a better person.
“I would summarize [my first season] as very successful, because I feel like I became more of a leader. I learned how to play at a faster pace and I just became way more mature,” said Bennett. “Coaches expected more of me to be an adult, be responsible for own decisions.”
Bennett was successful with the Owls. He quickly earned a starting spot on the roster and averaged 10.9 points, 3.9 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 1.2 steals. At the end of the season, he also became an AllNE10 Rookie Select and won multiple Rookie of the Week awards. While he said he was more than happy to earn the accolades in his first season, Bennett said he tries to stay humble despite them.
“I use [the awards] as motivation. I don’t ever get my head too big because anything can happen in basketball,” said Bennett, “so I just use them to get better, hopefully progress from it.”
Another new face for the team was forward Greg Jones, a junior who transferred from DI James Madison University, and who brought and instant impact of energy to the team as well as an enforcing big man presence in the paint. Averaging 13.8 points per game, as well as seven rebounds and a rejection, he said playing with the team reinforced who he was to himself.
“For me, I always knew I could play at a high level, I just needed to get my confidence back from my previous school,” said Jones on how he developed. “I know I can, and I am, better than a lot of players.”
Last season, with the presence of guards Kealan Ives and Isaiah McLeod who lead the team from the backcourt, the team was a slashing and shooting team. This year, focusing on the twin tower pairing of Jones and Taurus Adams, the teams only senior, the Owls played with a post-heavy offense.
Adams, who was a fouryear player for the Owls, had a breakout season for himself. He lead the team in scoring with 16 points a night, 10 more points than his junior season, and nine rebounds a game, six more than the previous campaign. He also tallied ten double-doubles over the season, including a 21-and-19 game on Feb. 22 against the College of Saint Rose — Senior Night.
“I think the key to my success was the work I put in the offseason. I was in the gym every day and coach trusted me,” said Adams. “He had confidence in me. My teammates found me in good areas to succeed and I did what I had to do for my team.”
Besides the aforementioned players, the team also had standout performances throughout the season from junior guards Isaiah Boissard, who gained a starting a starting spot averaging 10.6 points a game, 1.5 assists and 3.9 rebounds, and CJ Seaforth, who scored 12.2 points a game and grabbed three rebounds and 1.4 steals each night.
“I think everyone got better. Isaiah Boissard, who didn’t play at two years ago, I think he had a great year. Greg got better as the season went on.
Lyron obviously got better, finished strong at the end of the year,” said Burrell. “I think all the guys who came in got better and it showed the great growth that I hope they feed off.”
Except for Adams, the entire roster is set to return next season, and Jones said he is confident they will be back in the playoffs sooner rather than later.
“I expect to have a big season because everyone knows each other now. We know how each other play. We know what we can expect from each other,” said Jones. “I feel like we let Taurus down, so for us to go out there and play 100 percent, even though he’s not here, he’s here with us. So, I feel like everyone’s going to play a lot harder.”