The 2008-09 season marked the end of an era for Muhlenberg men’s basketball, as head coach
Dave Madeira retired after 22 seasons and a school-record 311 wins. But it may also have marked a beginning, as the Mules signaled their return to prominence in the Centennial Conference with a solid season.
Muhlenberg ended with a record of 16-11 and finished fourth in the CC – both bests for the program since 2002. The Mules hosted a CC playoff game for the first time since 2002 and won a playoff game at home for the first time since 1998.
And they weren’t far off from doing even better. With a team dominated by juniors, Muhlenberg
lost by one point to Franklin & Marshall, which would go on to the Division III “Final Four,” and by two points at DeSales, which came up one game short of the national semis. The Mules also split with Gettysburg, the eventual CC champion.
MacIntosh, honored as the team’s “Unsung Hero,” was third in the CC with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.45. He finished his career with
231 assists, improving his total every season.
The Mules started the season by winning the Scotty Wood Tournament in impressive fashion, defeating Marymount 70-49 in the championship game. The 49 points were the fewest allowed by Muhlenberg in the Scotty Wood championship game since 1996, and the 21-point margin of victory in the final was topped only once previously by the Mules.
Muhlenberg held its two Scotty Wood opponents to 31.7-percent shooting and outrebounded them by 41. Strong defense and rebounding would be a hallmark of the team the entire season. The Mules wound up fourth in Division III in field-goal percentage defense (.384) and 20th in both rebound margin (plus-6.1) and blocked shots per game (4.6).
After starting out 5-3 (including Madeira’s 300th win), the Mules embarked on the bulk of their CC schedule with a string of close games. Their first six CC contests
of 2009 – three wins and three losses – were decided by a total of 24 points. One of the games was a 64-57 win against Johns Hopkins, Muhlenberg’s first at
home vs. the Blue Jays since 1987.
Playing a rare Monday night CC game, Muhlenberg set school and CC records by going a perfect 26-for-26 from the foul line in a 73-65 win at Swarthmore. The two teams broke a Division III mark by combining for 38-for-39 shooting.
The Mules entered the month of February only 6-6 in the CC but won their next five league games to clinch a playoff berth. Included in the run were close road
wins at Haverford (three points), Gettysburg (four points) and Johns Hopkins (two points), the latter two won with second-half comebacks. During the streak, Muhlenberg held five straight opponents under 60 points for the first time in the shot-clock era.
Bernardini, Muhlenberg’s leading scorer in 2007-08, was one of several players who sacrificed his numbers in the team’s balanced approach. He was one of 10
players to record a double-figure scoring game and one of eight to lead the Mules in scoring in at least one game. Bernardini ended his career with 705 points.
In the last game of the regular season, the Mules
went on an 11-1 run over the last 2:57 of regulation to force overtime, although Ursinus went on to win. That made Muhlenberg the fourth seed for the CC playoffs with an opportunity to host Haverford.
Two teams nationally ranked in defensive categories played a typically close, low-scoring game. The Mules did not make a field goal in the last 14 minutes, but got two free throws from senior Mike Bernardini with 1:24 left for a 52-50 victory.
The season ended in the CC semifinals with an 87-79 loss at Franklin & Marshall.
With the exception of starting point guard Chris MacIntosh, who led the team in assists and steals, the four seniors
(including Darrell Roth and Tim Murray) were primarily reserves, with none averaging more than Bernardini’s 5.2 points per game.
Muhlenberg’s top player was junior Peter Barnes, who emerged as one of the top big men in the CC. The second-team All-CC center and Scotty Wood Tournament MVP led the Mules in scoring (12.1 points per game), rebounding (8.8 per game), field-goal percentage (.579) and blocked shots (50) and was an imposing presence in the middle.
Two other forwards received All-CC honorable mention. Junior Ryan Foster averaged 11.5 points, led the team with 56 three-pointers and ranked among the team leaders in almost every category. Spencer Liddic, only the eighth freshman in CC history to earn all-conference honors, was the Mules’ top scorer in CC games, averaging 13.1 points, and averaged 11.6 points and 7.1 rebounds overall.
Sophomore Evan Tozer (7.9 ppg) and juniors Brian Frankoski (5.3 ppg, 72 assists) and Zachary Rosenberg (4.9 ppg) also had their best seasons to date.