After losing seven seniors through graduation and returning only two players with significant experience at the collegiate level, the Muhlenberg men’s basketball year had an inspiring rebuilding season, narrowly missing the Centennial Conference playoffs.
The core of the young Mule squad featured juniors and sophomores, who didn’t see a lot of playing action in preceding campaigns, but they all stepped up and proved their right to play in a Muhlenberg jersey.
In the last regular-season game against league-leading Ursinus, the Mules needed a victory to clinch their
third consecutive playoff berth in a very competitive conference, which eventually had two representatives in the “Sweet 16,” one of which advanced to the national semifinals.
Muhlenberg put up a good fight, but lost a dramatic 72-69 decision to the Bears, thus wrapping up the 2007-08 season with a 10-15 overall record and an 8-10 mark in the CC.
Pask scored a season-high 11 points in back-to-back CC wins against Washington and McDaniel.
The whole campaign was a whirlpool of alternating winning streaks with series of unfortunate results.
After opening CC action with a 50-42 road loss to Haverford in late October, the Mules racked up four successive conference wins, including an 86-54 home rout against McDaniel. Against the Green Terror, Muhlenberg showed some of its great potential, shooting a season-high 60.8 percent from the floor and a spectacular 57.1 percent beyond the three-point arc.
Following that successful run, the Mules fell in a three-game slump, losing on the road to Gettysburg, Johns Hopkins and Franklin & Marshall. The defeat to the Blue Jays was especially painful as it came in triple overtime.
However, Muhlenberg regrouped quickly, winning four of the next five encounters and putting itself in an excellent position to attack the playoffs. Dickinson, Washington and Haverford were sent back home from Memorial Hall with losses. The fourth win was a hard-fought 61-57 away triumph against McDaniel, giving the Mules a season sweep of the playoff-bound Terror.
With an 8-5 record, the Mules looked poised to
clinch a playoff spot, but had a tough conference schedule remaining and dropped their last five contests, four to playoff teams.
Bernardini scored 31 points at Gettysburg and 32 at Johns Hopkins, becoming only the second Mule player to hit the 30-point mark in consecutive games.
Junior Mike Bernardini emerged as Muhlenberg’s leader and top scorer, averaging 13.6 points per game and 4.1 rebounds per contest. He was one of the top free-throw shooters in the league, as he finished fourth overall with an 81.7 percentage from the foul line.
Classmates Chris MacIntosh (3.7 points per game, 3.0 assists per game) and Darrell Roth (8.5 ppg) saw increased time and orchestrated the playmaking duties on the floor for the Mules. Junior Tim Murray gave the team valuable time as a reserve post player in his first varsity season.
Sophomores Peter Barnes (6.2 rpg, 1.2 blocks per game), Ryan Foster (11.8 ppg, 4.7 rpg), Obi Nwizugbo (9.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg) and Brian Frankoski (4.7 ppg) also established themselves as key members of the team. The 6-9 Barnes was particularly impressive down the stretch, averaging 10.3 points and shooting 62.9 percent from the field over the final 10 games.
The Mules lost only one senior through graduation – hard-working co-captain Greg Pask, who completed his task of mentoring his younger teammates and helping them turn into a cohesive unit.
Despite not qualifying for playoffs, the young and talented Muhlenberg squad acquired vital experience, which will come in handy when next season arrives.