The Journey to GSAC & Nationals

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The Journey to GSAC & Nationals

Timothy Soares shoots a free-throw.

Timothy Soares shoots a free-throw.

Darcy Brown

Timothy Soares shoots a free-throw.

Darcy Brown

Darcy Brown

Timothy Soares shoots a free-throw.

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No matter the sport, it’s easy to measure a season by the last game played. Being the final memory of the year, the last game often holds either the greatest victories or the deepest regrets.

But for the Mustangs men’s basketball team, it’s safe to say the journey to GSAC and Nationals depicts a better picture of the team. From the energetic white-out home games to the victories and losses away, the Mustangs have grown tremendously as a team.

“It was tough to compete day to day at that level,” said sophomore transfer Darryl McDowell-White. “We had a great group of guys, though, which made it fun and intense at the same time.”

With such a young team, the future of Mustangs basketball looks bright.

“This team is unique because of how everyone interacts with each other,” said center Timothy Soares. “We have a lot of fun with each other. All the guys are super close, and it’s really easy to play with guys that like each other.”

While the Mustangs may not have made it past the first round of Nationals, their loss has driven them for next year. Juniors Hansel Atencia, Delewis Johnson and Kaleb Anderson will lead their team as the seniors next season.  

“We’ll keep thinking about what happened this year over and again,” Atencia said in an interview with Sports Information Director, Mason Nesbitt. “We don’t want that to happen next year. That’s going to motivate us.”

Going into next year, the lineup features returning players, Timothy Soares, Brock Gardner, Michael Taylor and Darryl McDowell-White, Travis Yenor, Keegan Scott, Hodges Bailey, and Nick Swenning.

Gavin Dejong and Dallas Cunningham, who both redshirted this year, will make their debut on the court next season.

2018’s GSAC Player of the Year, Lawrence Russell, has just wrapped up his final season with the Mustangs.

“Everyone’s sad that he’s leaving,” Cunningham says of his teammate. “I really look up to him, but I think we’ll be okay. We have a lot of good guys that can take his place.”

Ending with an overall record of 29-3 and a conference record of 19-3, the Mustangs dominated the court both home and away. Coaches Kelvin Starr and Thomas Lowery led their team through close games against Hope International to complete blowouts at home against Bethesda University and Westcliff University.

“We have great chemistry,” Starr said of his team in chapel after the GSAC championship game, “We just get along well. That’s why I coach, not just to win games, but to represent Christ. People always say we look like we’re having fun.”

Starr was awarded 2018 NABC-NAIA Coach of the Year in Kansas City this past month, and it is easy to see why.

“They’re [Starr and Lowery] a great team. They know how to handle the personalities on the team, and they bring out the best in all of us,” McDowell-White said. “They coach us for the game but also for life.”

The Mustangs defeated rival Azusa Pacific,with close games against Baker University, Westmont, and Vanguard. Hope International took the Mustangs by surprise in their second game against them in February, leaving the Mustangs with their second loss of a nearly undefeated season.

The hard work put in during the season brought the Mustangs to the GSAC tournament, where they won the championship game, and later to the NAIA Division 1 National Championship tournament.

“Even though we lost [Nationals], just walking out on that floor, seeing the big bright lights, knowing we made it this far – it was a really proud moment,” said McDowell-White.

 

Darcy Brown
Fans cheer for their team in a whiteout.