The men’s basketball season saw their season come to an end on Feb. 26.
After two consecutive post-season victories, the WolfPack fell in the Regional championship game, 72-57, to the defending national champion Joliet Junior College Wolves. The WolfPack finished the season with an overall winning record of 16 wins and 15 losses. In conference play, the team recorded seven wins and seven losses.
Going into the championship game against Joliet, the team knew that they would need to play well to win. A little over two weeks prior to the championship game, they lost to Joliet by one point at their home court.
After winning four out of the last five games leading up to the contest against Joliet, Scot Vesterdahl, coach for the WolfPack, felt the team had a good chance to compete with the defending champs. He attributed some of the momentum the team had going into the game to a second half performance in the previous game against Harper College.
In that game, the WolfPack was down by five at the half and rebounded by out-scoring the opposing team by 19 in the second half. The second half surge led the team to a 77-63 victory and a berth to the regional championship game.
“Against Harper, we played as good a half of basketball as we played all year,” Vesterdahl said.
Following the defeat in the championship game, team members expressed various emotions.
“It just kind of hurt, the sense that it’s over. I am happy in knowing that we got there,” said Aaron Jones, second year player for the WolfPack.
Although the season is over, team training will continue in the off-season. Returning players are meeting with the coaching staff individually to formulate off-season work out and shooting plans, according to Vesterdahl. He believes that next season is promising. While he expects to have a good group of guys coming back next season, the coaching staff is also recruiting to fill a number of positions.
“We will be looking at who is coming back,” Vesterdahl said. “We will be looking for size, looking for kids that can shoot.”
Regardless of potential new recruits, Vesterdahl believes that the team has a good base already.
“I like the group leadership potential. In this conference, it is always better when the team is led by sophomores,” Vesterdahl said.
With the season over, the team has three players who won’t be eligible to return next season. One of the players, Corey Yahnke, led the team in points with 523 and in total rebounds with 234. He also accounted for 155 free throws made out of 207 attempts. Jones and Derrick Nillissen also will not be returning. Jones led the team in minutes played, scored 500 points, and accounted for 112 total rebounds. Nillissen led the team in three point field goals made with 75, and was the fourth best scorer on the team.
For the new players coming into the program, Jones has a word of advice.
“If you work hard, anything is possible,” Jones said.
Although he says it sounds cliché, it is inherently important to success. With the end of the season, players and coaches feel disappointment that the team couldn’t take that last leap to the national tournament. However, the team will remember what they did, how they got there, and the bond of becoming a team, Vesterdahl said.