Mount St. Mary’s wasn’t even supposed to be here.
Every step this season was a struggle. Whether it was starting the year 0-5, losing to last-place Sacred Heart, or facing a 19-point deficit to St. Francis Brooklyn with less than 10 minutes to play in the NEC quarterfinals, it felt like the Mount played 2013-2014 a step behind.
But as the Mountaineers celebrated on Wagner’s home court on Saturday afternoon following its semifinals upset of the Seahawks, the stigma of being down went from feeling like a burden to a sense of pride.
“I think our guys have done a great job all season long of accepting challenges,” said Mount St. Mary’s head coach Jamion Christian. “I can’t say enough how proud I am of our guys. Our effort, our togetherness, and our growth over the season.”
Tuesday will mark the final hurdle for the Mount, and it will certainly be a tough test. It will travel to Moon Township, Pa., to face top-seeded Robert Morris in the NEC Championship game on ESPN2 at 7 p.m. It’s the second year in a row that Mount St. Mary’s has fought its way to the title game. Last year the run-and-gun LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds staved off the upset.
“Going to the championship last year,” senior guard Julian Norfleet said, “and then go all summer and put in the work that we did, and get back to the championship and be in my last game as a senior is just tremendous to show how much we work.”
Christian said he thinks his team is better prepared than it was last year to actually win an NEC championship. This group is more experienced, has been there before, and for all intents and purposes is playing with house money.
But that doesn’t lower the stakes by any means for Mount St. Mary’s. Though many don’t believe they are the among the conference’s elite, Christian knows what his team is capable of.
“I feel like we’re 100 percent a better team than we were a year ago,” Christian said. “We’re playing better now and we have more substance. We’ve been through so many tough times together and there’s no substitution for that.
There have been stretches this season where the Mount has been unstoppable. A 104-84 win over Norfolk State in which Mount St. Mary’s hit 18 3-pointers was the high point.
Then there have been games like the one against Maryland Eastern Shore, a team that won just four games against Division I teams this season. When it played against UMES, the Mount couldn’t muster much offensively, and allowed the Eagles to play clean basketball en route to a 78-71 UMES win.
Mount St. Mary’s has been the team that was down 19 to St. Francis Brooklyn. But they’re also capable of being the team that rallied to win it as well.
“Whatever we do, we do together,” Christian said. “We can achieve anything. I’m so proud of our guys, because whenever you watch them when we play, (you see) just how much we believe in one another. It’s rarely one person who dominates a game. It’s always a team effort.”
“That’s the way basketball should be played.”
Sam Blum is a writer for Big Apply Buckets. You can follow him on twitter @SamBlum3.
3 thoughts on “Mount St. Mary’s Overcomes Hurdles To Reach NEC Championship”
So apparently, The Mount gives new meaning to the “6th Man”. If reviews confirm this, is it realistic that there would be any consequences to having six players on the court for 2.5 seconds? I can’t imagine this to be anything else than inadvertant (it comes as no shock that everyone missed it given the “Mayhem” of the end of that game). However, given the one point margin of victory – it will be interesting to see if there is any fallout.
Regardless, Go Mount!
Isn’t having too many players on the court a technical foul? If it’s considered a bench foul, it’s two shots — correct? MSM by one — but which way? Winner or loser? This really puts a cloud over tonight’s championship game. It could only happen with St. Francis Brooklyn involved!! This season turned out to be incredible for the Terriers.
To make matters even theoretically worse, if it’s a technical foul, Terrier Ben Mockford, an 80% foul shooter, probably steps to the line for at least one, maybe two attempts. What a fiasco!