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Bruins b-ball teams strive to rebound from difficult season

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Sophomore Devin Dean tries to pass during a practice game. Photo: Derek Eckenroth

Coaches and players on the men’s and women’s basketball teams are optimistic for next season despite both having a losing season this year.

Because of restricted travel due to COVID-19, the number of games this season for each team was fewer than half the number in previous years. The men’s team played 13 games and the women’s team 15 games.

The men’s team entered the National Christian College Athletic Association Division II South Regional Tournament with four wins and eight losses. The team played its first game of the tournament against the Southeastern Baptist College Chargers. In the first half, the Bruins trailed the Chargers by three points. They were able to recover in the second half, tying the game and sending them into overtime. In the second overtime, the Chargers managed to pull ahead, beating the Bruins with a final score of 90 – 86.

Sophomore Elijah Cupples dribbles down the court. Photo: Derek Eckenroth

This loss ended the team’s season, giving them a final record of 4-9. Although the loss was disappointing for the players and coaches, the team believes it has a solid foundation to build on for next season.

The women’s basketball season was substantially shortened after many players on the team tested positive for COVID-19. The team was unable to play during the fall semester, instead beginning their season on Jan. 9.

After the delayed start, the team suffered a series of discouraging losses before beating the Carolina Christian College Centurions several weeks into the season. For many of the players, this win signified a turning point in the year and became one of the most memorable moments of the season.

“We had just lost several in a row,” said Gracen Ledford, a senior and Bruins team member. “So, finally getting that win, knowing that earlier we hadn’t performed to our best ability but now finally earning our win, was really nice.”

The Lady Bruins went on to win four of their next six games, entering the NCCAA Division II South Regional Tournament with a record of 5-8. Their first game of the tournament was against Trinity Baptist College, to whom the Bruins had suffered a narrow four-point defeat less than a month prior.

Sophomore Devin Dean tries to pass during a practice game.
Photo: Derek Eckenroth

Going into the game, the players felt confident they could win this time. “There were a lot of areas in that [first] game that we just did not play well,” junior basketball player Bethany Daulton, said. “I really [expected] that we should be able to pull off that win and play on Saturday.”

This confidence was justified when the team beat the TBC Eagles 63-52, advancing to the tournament finals.

For the finals, they faced off against the Pensacola Christian College Eagles, a rematch of last year’s tournament finals. After a slow first quarter left them down by 11 points, the Bruins were able to catch up in the second and third quarters, ending the third quarter ahead 49-48. In the final quarter of the game, the two teams fought back and Sophomore Elijah Cupples dribbles down the court. Photo: Derek Eckenroth forth for the lead before the Bruins faltered in the last several minutes, losing the game 68-72. Even this loss showed a notable improvement over earlier games in the season, such as when the Bruins lost to the Eagles 52-74 at the start of the semester.

Several promising freshman, sophomores and juniors, as well as both teams’ noticeable progression throughout their season have caused coaches to be optimistic for next season.

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Bruins b-ball teams strive to rebound from difficult season