Injuries, slow start, doom men’s basketball team

Before the season began, Phil Negri had never experienced a season without a postseason appearance.

Although never making it past the second round, the postseason had never grown old for the senior guard. But with the team finishing with a 17-9 record, Negri and the Warhawks are not heading to the postseason this season.

Thwarting the ’Hawks’ playoff hopes was UW-Superior, who took them out, 78-72, Feb. 22. The Yellowjackets (15-12) ambushed the ’Hawks perfectly as they were still riding a high from defeating the Yellowjackets, 79-63, three days earlier.

Phil Negri

Head coach Pat Miller said this was a “trap” game, and his team played right into it.

“One of our issues the entire year had been handling difficult situations with a young team and this game wasn’t handled very well, especially when we got down,” Miller said. “We got tentative, and that’s the last thing you can do in those situations.”

The team fell behind by as many as 11 points in the second half.

Walking off the court, Negri said he wasn’t prepared for the feelings he would experience, as he came to the realization his season and his basketball career were over.

“It happened very abruptly.” Negri said. “It was tough for me personally but for the team as well, because that was a game we could have won … we know they’re a team we could have beat.”

Negri said the loss to the Yellowjackets was a microcosm of the type of season the ’Hawks have had.

Getting the “little things” right is something that has plagued the team all year. From injuries and a 4-4 start to general inconsistencies, the ’Hawks couldn’t seem to get everything right at the same time.

Even a mid-season surge, one which saw the team win eight of nine games, couldn’t save the ’Hawks from a fall from the ranks of the NCAA tournament-bound teams.

Miller said what makes the loss to the Yellowjackets harder is the realization the team was so close to making the tournament. He said if the ’Hawks won two games in the WIAC tournament, an NCAA tournament berth would have been achieved.

“It took a while for them to learn to play together in the beginning of the season,” Miller said.   “That  definitely set us back.”