Despite having a record-breaking night with a strong showing from the team’s lone senior, the men’s basketball team fell in their season finale, 68-58, to Montclair State University.
In what would be the finishing touch in a season full of difficult games, the Lions (8-17, 6-12) struggled with the same issues — turnovers, foul trouble and shooting the ball — that plagued the team throughout the year.
The loss put a damper on what otherwise was a night of celebration for the College, as the team honored senior forward Joe Kane with a pre-game ceremony.
“It was a lot to take in,” Kane said. “But it’s a team sport, so I put that first. I wanted to win, but we came up short.”
Kane had quite a bit of crowd support, as an entire section of the Packer Hall auditorium was filled with his fans — several waving signs in support of their friend, including a few less-than-flattering enlarged photos of Kane’s head.
“Some of my closest friends came,” Kane said. “I told them about the game, so they made up the signs. My family was here, too. I definitely appreciate my parents for everything they’ve done for me.”
The senior wasn’t the only appreciative one on the night.
“Joe Kane has been a person that is so important to our program,” head coach Kelly Williams said. “He’s done so many things that just don’t show up on the scoreboard, with his work ethic and his commitment in the offseason, his team-first attitude — that’s what we’re going to miss. We have to build our program with guys like that.”
Kane posted good numbers in the final game of his career, netting nine points and six rebounds before fouling out with a little more than two minutes to play.
The team was led in scoring by junior guard Jayson Johnson, who had 13 points, while freshman guard Eric Klacik and junior forward Alex Fox each contributed nine points. Sophomore forward Bobby Brackett also had nine points to go along with his 12 rebounds, the ninth of which gave Brackett sole custody of the College’s single-season rebounding title, held since 1965 by Paul Brateris (’67).
“I knew (about the record), and it’s cool I got it, I guess, but I just wanted to win,” Brackett said. “Obviously I take pride in rebounding, so (the record) just kind of came with that.”
In collecting the record, Brackett averaged 13.1 rebounds a game, good enough to be ranked fourth nationally among Division III players. He also gathered 17 double-doubles this season, which placed him fourth nationally in that statistic as well.
“I didn’t really expect (to have this kind of year) coming in,” Brackett said. “It turned out alright individually, but for the team, I wanted to get more than eight wins, so I’m kind of frustrated right now.”
That said, Brackett isn’t done improving his own game — not even close.
“I have to get better at everything — I have a lot to do this summer,” Brackett said.
With this season officially in the record books, the team is already looking ahead to an improved season next fall.
“Obviously we have a lot of work to do,” Klacik said about the future. “We have a lot of talent on this team, but coming together (and) playing team defense, that’s probably how we’re going to win games next year.”