Mass. College Sports: Mid-Week Check In

By Matt Noonan 

It’s hump day (Wednesday), which means its time for our weekly ‘Mid-Week’ check-in, so here are some headlines and news swirling around Massachusetts:

* Northeastern University’s men’s ice hockey team snapped a three-game skid with an overtime win last night in Amherst, as the Huskies topped UMass, 5-4 in overtime. The win provided Northeastern with two very important points. However, if the Huntington Avenue unit wants to make the Hockey East tournament, they’ll have to start their quest with back-to-back wins against a Providence Friars squad on Friday and Saturday, which won’t be easy.

* Sticking with the Hockey East, Merrimack College remains a point ahead of Boston College in the standings. The Warriors beat the Eagles this past weekend in North Andover and haven’t dropped a single contest this month. Yet, they did tie Providence on Sunday, but that’s not a loss.

* Anna Maria’s men’s basketball team extended its winning streak to 16-games last night, as they defeated Emmanuel College in the first round of the GNAC (Great Northeast Athletic Conference) tournament, 85-76. Brad Peterson recorded a double-double with 21 points and 12 rebounds in the win, while Anthony Click filled the stat sheet with 16 points, nine rebounds, five assists, two steals and one block. The AMCATs will continue their quest toward conference glory on Thursday when they host St. Joe’s of Maine in the semifinals.

* The NESCAC hockey tournament kicks-off this weekend and you can certainly expect some great hockey to be played on numerous sheets of ice. Bowdoin College claimed the top spot in the men’s conference, while Middlebury secured the number one seed in the women’s conference. The Polar Bears have appeared in the championship match five times since 2000, while the Panthers seem determined to earn their third consecutive title. Yet, could Amherst College or Williams College be the spoilers?

* Bentley University’s women’s basketball team recently earned the top spot in this week’s Division II poll and will attempt to carry that momentum into this evening’s tilt against Franklin Pierce. According to yesterday’s press release, the Falcons are one win away from earing their third straight Northeast-10 Conference crown. Bentley clinched a share of the conference title last weekend with a win over Southern New Hampshire, but can secure the title for themselves with a victory against the Ravens.

* WPI’s Chris Bartley, who coaches the men’s basketball team, appeared this past Sunday on D3Hoops.com’s Hoopsville, an online radio show that airs twice a week. Bartley talked with host Dave McHugh about the Engineers season, as well as his team’s two setbacks to MIT and Springfield College. Bartley’s bunch will host the NEWMAC (New England Men’s and Women’s Athletic Conference) semifinals and finals this weekend at Harrington Auditorium, and will play in the tournament’s first game against the winner of Babson College and Clark University.

* Finally, I’d like to congratulate Nichols College junior Ryan Sheehan, who has been named to the 2012-13 Capital One All-America Division III Men’s Basketball First Team. He earned a spot on this team by being selected by the College Sports Information Department of America (CoSIDA). Sheehan tallied a team-high 554 points in 25 games this season for the Bison, as well as led the unit with 100 free throws, too. His other team highs included 52 trifectas and 125 rebounds. The Bison season concluded last night with a loss to Wentworth Institute of Technology in the Commonwealth Coast Conference quarterfinals.

Mass. College Hoops: Anna Mara Extends Streak To 13

By NoontimeSports.com 

Courtesy of our friends from the Anna Maria College sports information department, here’s this evening release pertaining toward the men’s basketball team, which earned its 13th consecutive win against Rivier:

(Nashua, NH) The Anna Maria College Men’s Basketball team downed host River University, 50-47 this afternoon to at the Muldoon Gymnasium to extend their unbeaten streak to 13 games.

The AMCATS, who improved to a GNAC best 14-2 and a 16-7 overall mark, were led by senior Anthony Click (Springfield, MA) who pumped in 18 points to lead all scorers. Brad Peterson added 9 points and 4 rebounds while shooting a perfect 5-for-5 from the line. Click also did not miss a shot from the charity stripe (6-for-6) and recorded 8 rebounds in the win.

Junior Tom Poitras (Bow, NH) led the Raiders with 13 points while senior Brian Troy (Keene, NH) added 11 as Rivier saw their season record fall to 10-13 overall and 6-10 in the GNAC. Senior Garon Whitney (Dover, NH) contributed 8 points and 5 rebounds and junior Nick Walch (Dedham, MA) recorded 10 points off the bench.

The Raiders earned a 5 point halftime advantage behind the strong performances from Troy, Walch and Poitras. The trio combined to shoot 75% from the field and record 19 of the team’s 27 first half points. Senior Mike Polley (Nashua, NH) pulled down 5 rebounds. The first half was won on the floor as Rivier held a 54.2% to 32% shooting percentage.

In the second half, Anna Maria was able to overcome the deficit as they shot at 40% while the Raiders stumbled to a 30.4% from the floor. The game came down to the final possession as Rivier, down by three, had the ball with 27 seconds left and could not get the last shot to fall.

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 Hoops: Anna Maria-Suffolk Highlights (LINK)

By Matt Noonan 

The Anna Maria men’s basketball team picked up its ninth consecutive win on Monday, as they defeated Suffolk University. The AMCATS are now 12-7 overall, 10-2 in Great Northeast Athletic Conference play.

Charter TV 3 was on the scene last night and produced a highlight reel from the game, and here is the LINK to the AMCATS 12th victory — CLICK HERE.

For more information on the AMCATs men’s basketball team — HOP HERE.