The 2013-2014 season came to a screeching halt Wednesday afternoon for the Foresters in the first round of the NAIA Division II National Tournament. The sixteenth-ranked men’s basketball team was defeated by the Southeastern University Fire 84-76 in a tale of two halves. Senior forward Shane Merryman concluded his career in the green and white with 28 points and nine rebounds. Senior forward TJ Short was held scoreless in his final game.
“The differences between the first half and second half were night and day,” head coach Ty Platt said. “In the first half we controlled things. We were getting the shots we wanted and we were executing our offense very well and playing good defense. In the second half we allowed Southeastern’s pressure to really bother us. We turned it over way too many times and we didn’t reestablish the our offensive flow we had in the first half.
The Foresters went into the locker room leading 36-29. Southeastern stormed out of the gate after the intermission scoring 55 second-half points. Senior guard Dwayne Johnson lead the charge for the Fire, scoring 29 points in the game leading all scorers. Junior guard Jake Hodges chipped in 14 points for the Fire.
Freshman forward Daniel Woll and junior center Alec Peterson were the other two Foresters to score in double figures, scoring 14 and ten points respectively. The Foresters shot 51% from the floor and and 67% from the line. Going 2-14 from behind the arc proved to be the kiss of death for the Foresters.
“It is always tough to find the right words to say at the end of the last game for a season,” Platt said. “You hurt for the team, but especially the seniors. We had a great year, one that we will remember for a long time, but we also want the younger guys to remember the feeling they had after the game and use that to push and drive them in the off season as they work to improve.”
Despite the loss, Platt described the season as “very successful” overall.
“We played a lot of exciting basketball and were able to win a lot of games,” Platt said. “Obviously, playing in the National Tournament was a goal we achieved. Added bonuses like being ranked in the top 25 in all 11 weekly polls was nice as was being on sports center top play of the day.”
The Foresters’ final record stands at 24-8. They return three of five starters next season.