Men’s basketball wins HCAC, plays in NCAA championships
Coming off a season that saw the Pioneers make the Elite Eight of the NCAA Division III national championship and then graduate seven seniors, head coach Brian Lane ’90 knew the next season would be a challenge for his men’s basketball team.
Instead of a significant drop-off, however, the Pioneers staged a late-season rally that saw them tie Bluffton University for second place in the regular season Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference race, then capture the HCAC tournament championship for the second year in a row and win another automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Transy finished 19-9 overall, including a 10-6 conference record.
“To be successful, I knew we were going to have to blend in some new players, and some from last year’s team who hadn’t played much,” Lane said. “I think we did that pretty effectively.”
The Pioneers won the South Padre Island Shootout in Texas over the holidays by defeating Rockford College and Westminster College to fashion a 9-3 record heading into January’s conference schedule. After running their HCAC record to 5-2, the Pioneers lost four conference games before finishing the season with five straight conference wins, including two in the league tournament. Transy defeated Bluffton 78-66 in the semifinals, then polished off Defiance College 77-64 in the title game.
“To get into the conference tournament, we had to win our last three games, and two of them were on the road,” Lane said. “After that, I thought we handled the conference tournament games really well.”
In the NCAA’s first round, Transy took on essentially the same College of Wooster team that the Pioneers had defeated the previous season on their way to the Elite Eight. Playing at Wooster, Transy ended the season with a 92-66 loss to the Fighting Scots, who went on to make the Final Four.
One of the “new” players Lane worked into the lineup was Nick Feagan ’06, who had played two previous seasons and returned for his final year of eligibility. “Nick coming back gave us a real boost,” Lane said. Feagan was Most Valuable Player of the conference tournament and a first-team All-HCAC selection after leading the Pioneers in scoring at 16 points a game and rebounding at 5.2 per contest.
Senior forward Joey Searle, also a first-team All-HCAC selection, was second in scoring at 15 points a game, followed by sophomore forward Joey Verax with 10.7, sophomore guard Aaron Cash at 9.1, and first-year guard Tim Tierney with 8.3. Verax was an HCAC Player of the Week twice, and Feagan won the honor once. Searle joined Transy’s career 1,000-point club with 1,081, good for 34th place.