by Anastasija Baranovska

abaranovska@my.madonna.edu

After winning the first ever Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference championship trophy in Madonna University history, the men’s basketball team made its first appearance at the National tournament facing Southern Oregon in early March at Keeter Gymnasium on the campus of the College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Mo.

Madonna ended its season in the first round of the tournament losing to No. 18-ranked Southern 83-66. This record breaking-season ended at 25-9 ended as the Madonna Community acknowledged their outstanding success.

“I am happy to be a part of the first trip to Nationals; however I’m disappointed that we didn’t take the opportunity that was given to us. Besides the loss, I wouldn’t change anything about the trip,” said Travis Schuba, junior 1st team All-Conference, majoring in Business Administration. “By going to Nationals this year we set a high standard for the future, and to be successful next year we need to work even harder, because everyone now expects us to go and our fans and coaches know that we are capable to repeat the success. We have an advantage, though. Not only do we know what it takes to win, but now we know what it takes to be there and what a great experience it is.”

The 22nd annual NAIA Division II Men's Basketball National Championship gave a chance to Madonna not only to face the 32 best teams in the country, but also to have a worthy experience of traveling to Point Lookout in Missouri.

“The entire experience of going to nationals was very fun. It was a good bonding time for us as a team, especially the traveling while we watched movies on the bus. Some of the guys played cards and games, and we enjoyed each other’s company,” said Eoghann Stephens, the only senior graduating from Madonna men’s basketball program this year, majoring in Social Studies with a minor in Education. “The actual organization of the tournament was on a very high level. The banquet that we had for all of the teams was a fun, new experience.  Every team had to stand up and was presented to everyone. We also had food that we were supposed to eat without forks or knives, and the show with the horses was very interesting as well.”

Unfortunately, the passion, talent and luck that Madonna team had Wednesday night was not enough to help them continue.

“Even though everyone was ready to go and excited to play, we didn’t play our best game that night and the opponent was very good despite the fact that they had a lower rank than us,” said Stephens. “After the game, coach said to us that he was disappointed with the way we played, but he knows that we have done so good this season, just wishes that we did better than we did last game.”

Stephens played his final game for the Crusaders and he led the NAIA with 64 total rejections this season. Stephens also tied the Madonna University men's basketball single-game blocked shots record with seven against Concordia Jan. 19.

“Losing only one senior this year on paper doesn’t seem like a lot, but in reality we obviously can’t replace Eoghann,” said Schuba. “That is why we really need people to step up and take bigger roles than what they had this year. But we do realize that we have a colossal advantage and a great chance to be as good next year because basically the entire starting lineup comes back.”

Schuba scored 40 points as part of his record-breaking performance Nov. 2, the second most points ever scored in a single game by a Madonna men's basketball player.  He will be coming back next year as one of five seniors on the court.

“My plans for my senior year are to build another successful year and to not only to win the WHAC championship again and go to nationals, but also succeed there,” said Schuba. “Coming to Madonna University my freshmen year with an 8-win seasons to progress to this year’s 25 win season is progress. The mentality that players had coming in three years ago changed Madonna men’s basketball mindset about success.”

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MU men’s basketball team falls short of National Championship