Catching Up With Shawn Conrad (Anna Maria Men’s Hoops) Pt. II

By Matt Noonan 

Here is our second and final installment from our conversation with Anna Maria College’s men’s basketball head coach Shawn Conrad on the AMCATs’ win against Albertus Magnus, the remainder of the season, and being able to coach his son Brian Conrad.

On Defeating Albertus Magnus: “That was very gratifying (and) was as good as a win as we’ve ever had (in a while). Even talking about the two playoff wins last year, which were two memorable moments for us. (Although), I have heard some people say that the Albertus game was (the best) basketball game that they ever came to see.

“We were never in the game in the conference finals (last season), they were a very, very talented team, and we just hung in there. We were behind a lot in the first half and the early part of the second half, and we just kept hanging in, and they had pretty much had their run of the league in the last two years, so a lot of their games are (usually) over by halftime. (However), this year the gap had lessened a little bit, there were more and more games that looked like a blowout at the end, but teams competed with them for a little bit longer and we just convinced ourselves that if we did what we set out to do and really do simple things, such as defend the half court and work inside-outside, then stick within the system, and stay within the things that have come to define us as a team in the second semester and let’s see if we can get to the last five minutes and have a chance and we did.

“With five minutes to go, I think we were tied and we made some plays and the kids were extremely, extremely happy and proud, and they should have been. They certainly made us very proud.”

On The Remaining Slate: “When we were having our little talks on that day we had three sessions (following our loss to Fitchburg State), I made a vow to them and said, ‘Look, you guys have cared way too much about the end of the season, and have forgotten to take care of the process to get to the end, and I will make a vow to you right now and promise you I will not look at the standings for the rest of the year, I don’t care where we are or anybody else is because all I care about is how we do today, and how we play in the next game.’

“We printed out a little passage that’s called, ‘One Possession,’ which talks about how kids make mistakes during the course of the game and go through a whole slew of things, and then they end up losing by one, so (I think they realize) what coach talks about and why every possession counts. We handed (out this particular passage) to them and I just said, ‘I don’t care what happens 30 minutes from now, I don’t care what happens 30 seconds from now, I care about this possession on defense,’ and I think that’s another thing we did (earlier this season, which was) we looked ahead and the players kind of drank the ‘Kool-Aid of the preseason rankings’ and I think they got enthralled with where we were going to be in February instead of what we were going to do in January and November, so every team on our schedule for the next six games can beat us. I do know that we can beat all six teams on our schedule, too. How’s (the remaining games) going to play out? I don’t know, but if we take it one possession at a time and one game at a time, then I (will) feel a heck of a lot better than looking ahead (and guessing outcomes).

On Coaching His Son Brian: “I treasure every moment that we’re together in this setting because it’s a whole different setting than being a father at home, and I am sure his eyes have been totally open to a side that he would have never imagined by knowing me and going home or coming to practices as a kid or coming to games. The day to day and what we share in the locker rooms and the fact that he can be apart of this is one of the most special things that I think I’ll ever have in my life. He doesn’t know how much I just love having (on the team).

“When it’s all said and done, (though, he and I) will have that other bond that my other kids weren’t able to share because they didn’t play for me at this level, while he gets to see what goes on every single day and the time and the effort and highs and lows and emotions. We’ve grown up as a family, we’re a very tight family, but when you’re playing on a team it’s another family, so he’s (become) part of two of my families, part of my real family and that athletic team basketball family, which is very special in its own way, and to have him be part of it, witness it and he’s been here during some pretty good times, some pretty good years, but it’s the most wonderful thing in the world.”

Catching Up With Shawn Conrad (Anna Maria Men’s Hoops) Pt. I

Anna Maria's men's basketball team is currently riding a nine-game winning streak, but what's the secret behind it? Coach Shawn Conrad knows! (Photo Credit: Anna Maria College Athletics)

Anna Maria’s men’s basketball team is currently riding a nine-game winning streak, but what’s the secret behind it? Coach Shawn Conrad knows! (Photo Credit: Anna Maria College Athletics)

By Matt Noonan 

Anna Maria’s men’s basketball team is currently riding a nine-game winning streak, which started with a victory on the road against Mount Ida College. The AMCATs are currently second in the GNAC (Great Northeast Athletic Conference) and have won 10 of their 12 conference tilts this season.

On Thursday, Noontime Sports caught up with the seven-year head coach Shawn Conrad to talk about the team’s recent winning streak, as well as the AMCATs current campaign. Below is the first of a few installments from our conversation with the coach.  

On the season thus far: “ (Prior to our first game), we experimented a little bit, we have some veteran kids, we struggled to score points last year, so we tried to open it up a little bit and try a little bit of a different offense, (and) a different kind of method. And we spent a lot of time in the preseason going over – it sounds easy to let’s not call plays and let’s just try to read each other and let’s open up the floor (and execute) the old drive and kick stuff.

“We’ve predominantly been an inside-outside team, and we spent a lot of time going over offensive things and it really didn’t click in the early part of the first semester we tried to tweak it and fix it and go with it, and I think subliminally the message that went along with that was that we were going to be an offensive team and not a defensive team. It (wasn’t) until about halfway through the first semester that we said we’ve got to get back to what we’ve always been and we’re a defense first, inside-outside team, and we kind of scrapped it, although it’s come in handy in a couple of games where we were kind of stagnant offensively.

“We’ve had to go back to let’s just open it up and play a little bit, so the evolution of a season is an amazing thing and I think our first semester woes were a product of really three things: trying to install a new offense, forgetting that we were spending so much time on offense that I think we forgot to re-instill in (our team) that we are still a defensive team first, and then the last thing we had a good run at the end of last year to get to the conference finals. We were ranked three in our league (during the preseason) and we tried to warn them daily and I think our guys felt a sense of entitlement.

“We’re good, but we play extremely hard when we defend in the half court and when we (pass the ball) inside. I think the combo of those three things really held us back a little bit in the first semester, not that we didn’t deserve to be 3-7 anyways because we played pretty good teams, pretty good schedule. (However), we like to challenge the team in the first semester, we know that we’ll never ever get an at-large bid (for the NCAA Div. III tournament) even if we go 25-0, it would still be very difficult for us, unless we win the conference tournament, so we played Bridgewater, Clark and Amherst, and went down to the Wesleyan tournament, so I think the fact that we like to think we play a tough non-conference schedule and we didn’t have an identity in the first semester, and I think that has changed. I think our guys really understand our identity as they’ve bought into it, and it has been a pretty good run right here, even though it hasn’t been smooth, but it’s been a lot of work and we’ve been able to come out on the plus side more often than not as of lately.”

On Playing Competitive Non-Conference Foes: “These are teams that have been to the NCAA tournament, these are teams that play in leagues that are held to at maybe higher regards across the board, and this is a great measuring stick for us to see where we stand. We want to be able to get to (that) level, so to play them we can obviously learn from them and understand what it takes to get to that level.

“I really think we can compete with these schools, but it is nice to be able to compete against the schools that are held at maybe higher regard because of the leagues that they’re in.”

On The Start Of The Current Winning Streak: “I was probably upset as probably as I have been and confused as I have been since I have been here (because) I thought we had something here (once the season started), but I knew we had a good group of players and good group of guys, but it just wasn’t clicking. Whether it is tinkering around with the offense in the first semester or what have you, and there were a lot of little things that just weren’t in the right place and I looked to that after (the) Fitchburg (game where) we bottled out. I was extremely disappointed and confused after that game, but we actually had three separate practice sessions the next day and we did a lot of soul searching. We did a film session; a practice session and we did a lecture section.

“(During that day) I tried to honestly as possible tell them what I thought was going on, how we have to change things and bizarrely we go down to Mount Ida (the following day) to begin our conference schedule for the rest of the route here and I thought the message was sent loud and clear on Friday, but apparently it wasn’t because we were really floundering. There was a sequence with probably five minutes to go in the first half where I think we scored and they came down within five to 10 seconds they made like two passes, beat us down the floor and dunked it.

“That’s probably the moment that our season changed. I can probably point to that because I had one of my moments and called a timeout and got all five guys out and just grabbed the first five guys I could put my hands on and put them in. And when they went out on the floor, the five that came out had that look like, ‘Hey Coach, what are you doing it?’ And I was like, ‘ We just played 10 games, we’ve lost seven of them, we’re down by eight with five minutes to go in the first half, so you tell me why you should be playing?’ (Apparently) I was the one making the mistake because (my players didn’t understand the message during that timeout). The five guys that went in, again, not as talented as the five guys we took out, but they just played with just incredible energy and gave us everything that we had been looking for even though we didn’t have as talented a group out there, but they cut into the lead, we made up the difference, and tied it up at the half.

“You could say we had a spirited halftime session, and basically the message was that no one is in expendable here. If you’re not going to play hard than we’ve got nothing to hang our hat on. We came out with great energy in the second half, got a double-digit lead right away, we didn’t put them away, however, they came back and had to hang on at the end, but that was the beginning (of our turnaround and current winning streak).

“Then we came home and had that four overtime game against Lasell that we could have lost, and we followed that with a trip to Norwich and that was an overtime game that we could have or should have lost as well, so we kind of got lucky, but I think they got a little bit excited about themselves and the games we had played and everyone’s talking about the overtime games and it kind of went from there.

“We had a tough (game) against Rivier (University), but I think the second big moment was going up to St. Joe’s (of Maine) and beating them there. It was kind of a coast to coast game (because) it’s a long trip and (they’re a) very established basketball program with a good tradition, and they were (slated second in the preseason poll), so our guys knew how big of a game that was and we were able to go up there on the road and win.

“Everything started to fall into place (after that St. Joe’s game), and again it was more a product of our defense and an understanding that we’re going to play with incredible intensity defensively, we’re going to get the ball inside and that’s how we’re going to operate.

“We clearly have an identity now and I think it has started to evolve from the second half of the Mount Ida game.

“The first thing first is that we are going to play with an incredible amount of energy and sometimes I guess human nature takes over, and why we felt we could pick our spots and get away with it is beyond me, but I think the message hit them.”

Mass. College Hockey: Nichols, Wentworth Skate To 2-2 Tie

By NoontimeSports.com 

Courtesy of our friends from the Nichols College sports information department, here’s this evening release pertaining toward the men’s ice hockey team that skated to a 2-2 tie with ECAC Northeast foe Wentworth Institute of Technology:

BURRILLVILLE, R.I. – The Nichols College and Wentworth Institute of Technology men’s ice hockey teams battled to a 2-2 tie on Wednesday night in a key ECAC Northeast tilt played at Levy Rink. With the result, the Bison move to 12-7-1 overall and 5-3-1 in the conference while the Leopards (10-8-2) continue to pace the league with a 6-2-1 ledger.

After 60 minutes of action, the game headed into a 4-on-4 overtime session that saw Leopard sophomore Seric Kapp (Scheafferstown, Pa.) almost sent everyone home but his shot glanced off the iron 3:25 into the frame. Wentworth peppered Bison first-year goaltender Alex Larson (Madison, Ala.) with four shots as Nichols took two shots of its own.

Nichols sophomore Brett Jackson (Larchmont, N.Y.) dented the scoreboard first as he knocked home a feed from senior Danny Greiner (Columbus, Ohio) at 8:05 into the game. The play began as first-year Frank Butler (East Haven, Conn.) skated down the center of the ice and dished off to Greiner to setup the one-timer. The hosts held a 11-5 lead on shots as each team went 0-for-1 on the power play.

The second period saw each team find the back of the net with the Bison once again on top heading into the locker room. Leopard sophomore Ben Iwanowski (Dorval, Que.) sent in  a shot that glanced off junior Patrick Rice (West Des Moines, Iowa) to even the game at 1-1 just 2:42 into the stanza. At the 7:30 mark, senior Bryan Gill (New Hyde Park, N.Y.) fired a howitzer through traffic as Nichols claimed the 2-1 advantage. Jackson and first-year Sean Fleming (Eastampton, N.J.) were each credited with assists on the goal. Wentworth outshot the Bison 13-9 and had a pair of power play chances while the Bison had one.

The Leopards tied the game for good 47 seconds into the third when rookie Adam Frank (Clarkston, Mich.) took advantage of a power play that carried over from the previous period with help from sophomore Mike Domsodi (Kirkland, Que.) and senior Shaun Jameson (Long Beach, Calif.). Nichols claimed a slim 11-9 lead in shots for the frame and the visitors were on the power play twice early in the period.

Larson (6-5-1) turned away 29 shots for the Bison. Leopard rookie goaltender Joel Miller (Calgary, Alta.) finished the game with a game-best 31 stops as he moves to 7-2-1.

Nichols hosts Becker for the rubber game of the season series at 7:40 p.m. Wentworth entertains Johnson & Wales on Sunday at 2:00 p.m.

Mass. College Hoops: Wednesday Night Roundup

By NoontimeSports.com 

There were a few interesting outcomes in the college basketball world on Wednesday evening, and below are highlights from the various contests.

Men’s Basketball:

UMass 61, La Salle 60 Chaz Williams sealed the victory for UMass with a layup with eight seconds remaining, as the Minutemen defeated the Explorers by one point. UMass is now 14-5 overall, 4-2 in Atlantic-10 play. Raphiael Putney paced the Minutemen with a team-high 17 points.

Georgia State 78, Northeastern 73 – The Huskies earned their first Colonial Athletic Association setback, as the Panthers clawed back from a seven-point deficit at the break to earn an important road win. R.J. Hunter led all scorers with 27 points with five rebounds, while Northeastern was paced by Reggie Spencer’s 17 points.

Army 80, Holy Cross 66 – The Knights tallied 38 points in the opening session and 42 during the final 20 minutes, which helped them earn their 10th win of the season and drop the Crusaders to 10-11 overall, 2-4 in the Patriot League. Ella Ellis came off the bench for Army and led all scorers with 23 points, while Justin Burrell netted a team-high 14 points for the Crusaders.

WPI 66, Babson College 43 – The Engineers extended their winning streak to 20 games, as they defeated the Beavers for the second time in Babson Park. Ryan Kolb led the unit with 17 points, while Aaron Davis and Sam Longwell each netted 11 points.

MIT 70, Wheaton College 57 – The Engineers earned their third consecutive win by downing the visiting Lyons by 13 points. Paul Dawson paced MIT off the bench with 14 points, while Wheaton’s Brian Johnson recorded a game-high 17 points.

Springfield College 58, Coast Guard 45 – Springfield snapped its two-game skid and received 18 points from Alex Berthiaume in their 15th win of the season.  

Women’s Basketball:

Holy Cross 51, Army 46 – Alex Smith scored a game and season-high 21 points and connected on five triples, which helped the Crusaders earn their 10th win of the season and second in the Patriot League. Amy Lepley scored 12 points and recorded four rebounds and two assists.

Babson College 52, Wellesley College 48 – The Beavers overcame a two-point deficit at halftime to defeat the Blue on the Road by four points. Sarah Collins led all scorers with 16 points and tallied eight rebounds, while Erin Young sank three triples.

Smith College 79, Springfield College 44 – Paulina Solis and Alyssa Barrett each netted 22 points, as the Pioneers cruised to a 35-point victory.

Wheaton College 34, WPI 32 – The Lyons received 12 points from Abbie Brickley and six from Kiley Shoemaker en route to their eighth win of the season.

Mount Holyoke 61, Clark University 59 – Angelica Pascual tallied a game-high 22 points, including six trifectas, as the Lyons defeated the visiting Cougars.    

VIDEO: After fending off WPI during the closing seconds, Wheaton College’s women’s basketball head coach Melissa Hodgdon chats about the Lyons important conference win. 

Mass. College Sports: Mid-Week Check In

Assumption's Katy Howard is one point away from netting her 1,000-point in a Hounds uniform. (Photo Credit: Assumption College Athletics)

Assumption’s Katy Howard is one point away from netting her 1,000-point in a Hounds uniform. (Photo Credit: Assumption College Athletics)

By Matt Noonan 

It’s time for a mid-week check in on the local college basketball and hockey scene in Massachusetts.

* Assumption College’s Katy Howard is one point away from closing in on 1,000 points in a Hounds uniform. On Tuesday, the Medway native tallied 10 points in a 57-51 victory over St. Michaels.

* Bentley University’s Courtney Finn and Lauren Battista each netted 17 points in last night’s 85-51 win against Le Moyne. Bentley, which has been ranked number two in the country since the preseason, has now won 31 consecutive games against East Region opponents. Also, the Falcons are 18-0 overall and 14-0 in Northeast-10 Conference play.

* UMass’ men’s basketball team is 5-2 this month and will look to earn their 14th win of the season when they face La Salle at 7:00 p.m. Chaz Williams has recorded 10 points or more in his team’s last nine games.

* Northeastern University’s men’s basketball team will look to earn their ninth consecutive Colonial Athletic Association victory this evening when they welcome Georgia State to historic Matthews Arena. The Huskies remain the top squad in their conference, and lead James Madison by two and a half games in the standings.

* Merrimack College’s Mike Collins was recently honored as the Athletic Republic Player of the Month. The junior forward from Boston recorded a league-high 11 points in seven January games for the Warriors. Merrimack finished the month 4-2-1, and remains tied with UMass Lowell for fifth place in the Hockey East.

* Needham’s Danny O’Regan, who is a freshman forward for the Boston University Terriers, was tabbed the Pro Ambitions Rookie of the Month. According to the latest Hockey East report, O’Regan led all Division I freshman with 11 points in January, (four goals, seven assists). His 11 points came during BU’s past six games.

* Reading’s Alex Carpenter was named the Athletic Republic Player of the Month on Tuesday. Carpenter recorded 24 points (nine goals, 15 assists) over nine games in January for Boston College’s women’s ice hockey team. The Eagles ended the month with an 8-1 record.