M/W Basketball: Hoops teams both sit at 21-3

 

Feb. 19

By Paul Bressler

The No. 2-ranked UW-Whitewater men’s basketball team needs to take care of business against the UW-Eau Claire Blugolds on Feb. 12 if it wants any chance for at least a share of the WIAC crown.

The Warhawks are second in the conference with one game left to play. The UW-Stevens Point Pointers sit atop the standings with a 13-1 conference record.

In order for the ’Hawks to take a share of the WIAC title, the Pointers must lose their last two games and the Warhawks must defeat the Blugolds in their final regular season game.

Either way, the ’Hawks will be the No. 2 seed and have a first-round bye in the WIAC tournament. The Warhawks will then face the highest remaining seed at 7 p.m. on Feb. 28 in Kachel Gymnasium.

Senior guard Alex Merg talked about what has meant the most to him in the five years he’s been in the program. He also has bigger plans than the conference tournament and won’t be satisfied with just a lengthy run afterwards.

Alex-MergWEB
Alex Merg

“Winning the national title is by far the most defining moment here, especially since we hadn’t won a title in 20 years,” Merg said. “[I’m] looking to get another one. Winning a national title, that’s it. I think we have a legit shot, that’s the goal.”

Before that opportunity presents itself, the Warhawks had to remain unblemished at home on Saturday night. The ’Hawks secured a 75-51 victory on senior night against UW-Oshkosh and wrapped up their regular season home schedule in the process.

Saturday night’s game also marked the first game head coach Pat Miller returned to the sidelines following his surgery. Miller had missed the previous three games, but assistant coach Nick Bennett helped lead the team to a 3-0 record in Miller’s absence.

Miller met with doctors and underwent an MRI on his neck after feeling discomfort in his shoulder and neck area. The scan revealed bulging discs between the C5 and C6 and the C6 and C7 nerves.

“I’m sore,” Miller said. “I’ll be honest, I’m sore. I’m glad to be back. Pretty quickly I was able to at least be back at practice and meet with the coaches and the guys. I’m glad we have the bye week.”

The ’Hawks finished the season unbeaten at home with a 12-0 record. The win also improves their record to 21-3 overall and 12-3 in WIAC play.

The ’Hawks’ last game of the regular season will be against the Blugolds at 7 p.m. on Feb. 22 in Eau Claire.

 

Women

The No. 11-ranked women’s basketball team has already clinched its second-consecutive WIAC title and looks ahead to senior night against UW- Eau Claire at 3 p.m. on Feb. 22 at home.

The Warhawks will be the No. 1 seed and have a first-round bye in the WIAC tournament.

The ’Hawks will then face the lowest remaining seed at 7 p.m. on Feb. 27 in Kachel Gymnasium. Senior forward Amy Mandrell is focused for the post season.

Amy MandrellWEB
Amy Mandrell

“We want to win the conference tournament,” Mandrell said. “We want to get the first-round bid so we don’t have to sit around a computer screen waiting to see our name. I don’t want to have that nail-biting experience.”

Head coach Keri Carollo is well aware of her team’s desire to win the conference tournament. Carollo also talked highly of Mandrell and the process she has gone through.

“Amy started out not playing as a freshman but got better each day,” Carollo said. “It’s awesome as a coach to see that growth. She is probably one of the best players in the conference.”

Carollo also talked about how senior night not only recognizes the women on the court but also in the classroom and in the community. One of those women is senior guard Katie Burton.

“Steady eddy we like to call her [Burton],” Carollo said. “She comes to practice and just works hard and carries it into the games. She’s not a vocal player. She lets her play lead by example.”

The Warhawks, who had already guaranteed a share of the WIAC crown, defeated No. 17 UW-Oshkosh 64-46 Feb. 15.

The Titans were the last obstacle in the ’Hawks’ way for the WIAC title outright. The Warhawks improve to 21-3 overall and a perfect 15-0 in the conference.

“It’s about pride,” Mandrell said. “It’s taking pride in the program, the coaches, family and friends. “You’re playing for not just yourself. You’re playing for everyone.”

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