LSUS Basketball: Season Summary
March 21, 2006
Another basketball season has come and gone for the LSUS Pilots, and the question on campus has been “what happened?” The way I see it, what happened was, a newly formed group of young men were assembled throughout the summer and were asked to become familiar with their new surroundings, new teammates, new classes, and new expectations. The 2005-2006 version of LSUS men’s basketball did just that; and then some.
The Pilots started the season with an LSUS record 12 game winning streak before dropping their first loss of the season to the Texas Wesleyan Rams in their last contest before the Christmas break (the Rams just won the 2006 NAIA National Championship Tuesday night).
After a long winter break with a losing taste in their mouth, the Pilots responded with a win against Central Baptist College, and a Gulf Coast Athletic Conference season opening win over Loyola University.
Unexpectedly however, the Pilots dropped their first and only home game of the season against the Belhaven College Blazers, 88-83, and were left searching for the answers that led to their early season success.
It looked as though the Pilots were about to roll as they won three consecutive games including an exciting one point road victory at the buzzer over the University of Mobile Rams. The Pilots then fell victim to a 111-94 double-overtime loss to the Spring Hill College Badgers, and sat in second place among the GCAC standings. In order to defend their 2005 GCAC Regular Season Championship, the Pilots were in a position of needing to win their remaining scheduled conference games to repeat as GCAC Champions.
Head Coach Chad McDowell decided the team needed to go in a different direction, and he used “the team” to do so. The next three games the Pilots had 10 different players average 10 minutes or more of playing time, and they outscored their opponent by an average of 27 points, and improved to 20-7 on the year, and 7-2 in conference play.
Up next was a rematch against the Blazers. This time the Pilots were up to the challenge and reversed the outcome in their favor, and won 88-83 on the road. With everyone firing on all cylinders, the Pilots were in the midst of a five game win streak with a must win game against the Badgers February 20th. Once again, the Pilots avenged their early season loss with a 97-77 stomping in front of a capacity crowd at The Dock.
LSUS finished the second half of the regular season undefeated, and claimed their second straight GCAC Regular Season Championship with a 12-2 record. By finishing as regular season champions, the Pilots were awarded the No. 1 seed in the GCAC Tournament, and the right to host their remaining games at The Dock.
Basketball at LSUS became the hottest ticket in Shreveport as friends, family, and fans from the Shreveport-Bossier area filled The Dock to capacity as they cheered the Pilots all the way to the GCAC Tournament Final against the SHC Badgers.
The much anticipated GCAC finale lived up the hype and then some. The Pilots jumped out to an early 16 point lead behind, but the relentless Badgers battled their way to their first lead of the contest midway through the second half.
The NAIA’s No. 1 ranked offense however proved to be too much as the Pilots went on to claim the school’ s first ever GCAC Tournament Championship with a 114-99 victory over SHC.
After the nets were cut and the championship plaques were accepted, the Pilots switched gears and prepared for their ultimate goal; winning an NAIA National Championship.
LSUS earned a No. 2 seed in their second appearance on the NAIA’s biggest stage, and drew the Southern Polytechnic State University Runnin’ Hornets of the Southern States Athletic Conference.
The team changed practice venues in an attempt to prepare for the stadium environment they would play in while in Kansas City, MO before embarking on their 12 hour bus trip with dreams of becoming No. 1.
As the No. 2 seed in the tournament, the Pilots were heavily favored heading into their first round match-up, however, play-off basketball does not care who is favored and who isn’t. The Runnin’ Hornets smothered the Pilots with a very tough and aggressive half court defense, and used a 57% shooting performance from beyond the three-point line to defeat the Pilots 104-90, and cut the Pilots run short, eliminating them from national championship contention.
As for the Runnin’ Hornets, their offense went stone cold and they were eliminated in the Sweet 16 by Lindsay Wilson University. And for the Pilots, it meant one last road trip with the team who created memories for themselves, their family, their coaches, and their university that will last a lifetime.
Five seniors said goodbye as a player from the HPE parking lot late Thursday night for the last time. Fredericko Payne, Derrick Sowell, Kyle Blankenship, Shadrach Roome, and Jeremy Johnston will not ever wear a Pilot uniform again, but they will always be remembered by the banner that will hang in The Dock that reads 2006 GCAC Champions.
While many were disappointed with how the season ended, I personally am truly excited for what this team has started. In six years at LSUS, I have never seen the campus come together and be so excited about an event like the GCAC Championship game.
The LSUS Pilots showed themselves, the campus, and the community what collegiate athletics is all about and how exciting it can be. While the Pilots have set a standard of excellence that will be hard to match year in and year out, hopefully the atmosphere that was created with the success of this year’s season will be matched from tip-off to finish in the years to come.
Until then, thank you to everyone who was a part of a tremendous season, and I hope to see you out on the baseball field!