Confident Colonels ready for tournament

February 22, 2004|JILL ERWIN

Last year Centre College's men were the new kids on the block. This time, the Colonels plan on making themselves at home.

Centre's home game today against Rose-Hulman will determine its seed in next weekend's Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Tournament in Memphis, Tenn.

The Colonels (17-7, 9-4) can clinch a No. 3 seed with a win over Rose-Hulman, which is tied with Trinity atop the SCAC standings. With a loss, Centre will be a four seed.

"We control our own destiny," Centre coach Greg Mason said after the Colonels' 65-61 win over DePauw on Friday night. "Trinity's the best team in the conference. They have another gear that other teams just don't have because of their length and size.


Centre is an experienced team, loaded with juniors and seniors that played in the conference tournament last year. James Booker is one of those seniors, and he hit two big 3-pointers to help Centre rally past DePauw Friday.

Booker said the experience of being in the SCAC Tournament last year will pay off this time around.

"It's very valuable to have that experience," Booker said. "You can't replace experience with anything else."

"We went down and played well last year," Mason said. "These guys know what it takes, they know what it's like to play three games in three days. We had success, and that gives you confidence. We're going to be a confident group going down there."

Another thing giving Centre confidence going into the tournament is the success the Colonels have had in close ballgames. Centre has played in 13 games that were decided by fewer than 10 points, and the Colonels have won nine of those.

One of those came Friday, when Centre went on a 13-2 run late in the game to turn a three-point deficit into an eight-point lead. Booker hit two 3-pointers in that stretch, and he said the Colonels have a calmness around them in a tight game.

"We have won a lot of close games, and that's given us confidence," Booker said. "When a game is close, I think everybody knows we're going to make plays and we can depend on numerous players to make plays. It's a good situation for us."

Mason concurred, citing his team's maturity as a reason for the victory over DePauw. Centre led by as many as 10, but also trailed by as many as five points as the game shifted back and forth.

"Every game for us this year has been tight," Mason said. "Our stats and our opponents' stats are very similar. We're used to winning games like this. Our guys have been down this road before, made the key plays. We're winning close games; we're not blowing anybody out."

Eight Colonels scored and five hit a 3-pointer

Eight of the nine Colonels that played scored, and five different Centre players hit a 3-pointer.

"That's the beauty of our team. We don't rely on one guy," Mason said. "There's a danger in that, if you rely on one guy. If he's sick or he's hurt, obviously you're in trouble. There's a possibility we won't get anyone on all-conference, but that's the beauty of this team: it's just a team."

A new face on the Colonels that figures to be a presence in the SCAC tournament is freshman Reggie Magnusson. Magnusson scored all 11 of his points in the first half Friday, and knows he has no idea what to expect from the conference tournament.

He said that while Mason said Trinity was the best team in the conference, there's also a real chance for an underdog to win the conference tourney

"I even think there's a chance for a four or five seed to win it," Magnusson said. "The top five teams really have a chance. It's going to be a close competition and I'm really looking forward to it."

Both Magnusson and Booker caution against overlooking the Colonels. Friday's win snapped a three-game losing streak, but the two say they have all the confidence they need.

"I definitely think we're capable of winning every game," Booker said. "We're getting better every day, trying to put everything together at the right time. I'm expecting big things from us."

"This team has a lot to offer," Magnusson said. "We have so much more in us, I think, and I think we can do so much and go all the way. When we are playing good, nobody can stop us."

DEPAUW (15-9, 8-5) - Wes Thornhill 1-2 0-0 2, John Gergely 5-10 2-2 13, Todd Capes 2-3 2-3 6, Reid Sakel 3-9 0-0 8, Matt McDonald 2-6 0-0 4, Jon Owens 4-9 0-0 8, Austin Brown 0-0 0-0 0, Alex Stewart 4-9 2-3 13, Robert Davis 1-4 0-0 2, Dre Smith 2-5 1-2 5. Totals 24-57 7-10 61.

CENTRE (17-7, 9-4) - James Booker 4-10 0-0 11, Jason Atwell 2-13 0-0 6, Kyle Roby 2-7 0-2 5, Rob King 1-4 10-12 12, Reggie Magnusson 5-10 1-1 8, John Ortega 2-3 0-0 6, Matt Jacobson 2-7 0-0 5, Coy Zerhusen 4-7 1-3 9, John Patterson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-61 12-18 65.

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