Muhlenberg College

Allentown, Pa.
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Tuesday, February 20, 2007
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CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW
MEN’S BASKETBALL STREAKING INTO PLAYOFFS

The 2006-07 season has been quite an adventure for the Muhlenberg men’s basketball team. After losing eight in a row, the Mules closed out the regular season with five straight wins to qualify for the Centennial Conference Tournament, keeping their journey alive. Their next stop: Gettysburg, to take on the No. 4 seed Bullets in the first round of the conference playoffs.

“The amount of energy and passion on this team right now is amazing,” said senior Brandon Mefford. “I feel bad for the teams that have to play us.”

Should the Mules defeat the Bullets on Wednesday, they would then travel to Johns Hopkins to face the No. 1 seed Blue Jays (21-4, 15-3), who earned a first-round bye. A
Jimmy Riggins
Senior Jimmie Riggins will be called upon to continue his strong rebounding into the playoffs. He leads the team with 6.3 rebounds per game, which lands him 12th in the conference in that category.
win in that contest would send Muhlenberg to the championship game to face the winner of No. 2 Ursinus (16-9, 13-5) and No. 3 Haverford (13-11, 12-6), both of which also earned a bye for the first round.

Any of the teams in this year’s tournament could potentially take the crown. Each of them has won at least three games against postseason qualifiers, and 13 of the 20 games played between the five teams were decided by eight points or fewer.

“Anybody can win at any time,” said Mefford, who leads the team with 65 assists (2.71 apg), good for 10th in the conference. “There’s no clear-cut favorite because there are so many strong teams, and everyone has great coaches.”

Muhlenberg picked up three big wins against potential playoff opponents in the regular season. The Mules earned a victory each over Gettysburg and Haverford earlier this year, and they most recently knocked off two-time defending champion Ursinus to cap their regular season-ending five-game win streak.

“The morale on this team is the highest I’ve seen it in a while,” Mefford said. “Everyone is committed to doing whatever they can to help the team succeed.”

The Mules seem to be due for some success in the tournament and hope the third time will be the charm against Gettysburg (12-12, 10-8). Muhlenberg lost to the Bullets the previous two times they met in the postseason – both times by a score of 68-59, first in the 2000-01 championship game and then in the 2001-02 semifinals.

This year Muhlenberg and Gettysburg split the regular season series, with both games going into overtime and each team winning on the other’s home court.

“It’s always tough to play at Gettysburg, but we’re just going to take it one game at a time,” Mefford said. “Everything we’ve learned all season has to come together now, and hopefully we can make the push.”

If the Mules go on to face Johns Hopkins in the second round, they will look for magic
Chris Pothering
Senior Chris Pothering is the second-leading three-point shooter on the team with 31 three-point field goals made. He helped the Mules set the record for three pointers made in a season (178), which they did on Saturday against Ursinus.
number three once again. A Mules win over the Blue Jays would be the first in three tries this season, the first in the last three times the teams met in the CC playoffs, and the third time ever in postseason history.

And just in case you’re not yet tired of the number three, Muhlenberg is a perfect 3-0 in combined playoff games against Ursinus and Haverford, dating back to the days of the MAC in the 1960s.

The Mules will try to go out with a bang for their seven – not three – seniors, who have played a key role in the team’s success this year.

Senior Tom Scott has led Muhlenberg of late, earning back-to-back CC player of the week honors after averaging 21.0 points and 7.6 rebounds in the last five games. The team will look to him to continue his recent hot shooting from the field (.621 last week) and behind the arc (.600) against the tough defenders they will face in the playoffs. Johns Hopkins, Gettysburg and Ursinus rank as the top three teams in field goal percentage defense with averages of .389, .390 and .401, respectively.

Senior Chris Huber will also likely play a key role for the Mules, as he averages 11.0 points per game this season and leads the team in three-point shooting overall (48-118, .407).

Then there’s sophomore Mike Bernardini, who has come on strong in Muhlenberg’s current winning streak. He has scored in double figures in each of the last five games, including two 20-plus-point performances.

If the Mules can carry the momentum from their five-game winning streak into the playoffs, they will have a good chance of upsetting their opponents as the natural underdog at the No. 5 seed.

“We deserve this playoff spot, and now we have a chance to prove how well we can play,” Mefford said. “We’re going to keep fighting until we’ve got nothing left.”


Questions or comments? Send mail to falk@muhlenberg.edu
Last updated February 20, 2007