Balls stops bouncing on the season for UALR basketball
Trojan men’s basketball team took resiliency to overtime this season
The UALR Trojan men’s basketball team’s 2013-2014 season came to an end in record-setting fashion with a 116-114 quadruple-overtime loss to Arkansas State in the SBC Tournament in New Orleans on March 14. The loss left the Trojans with an overall record of 15-17 for the season.
According to the Sun Belt Conference website, the four overtime game was a first in SBC tournament history. The game featured 23 ties and 31 lead changes with neither team leading by more than seven points.
Senior guard Leroy Isler led the Trojans with 25 points, while playing 52 out of the game’s 60 possible minutes. James White had 20 points and Josh Hagins added 17. The game was a microcosm of the season as a whole as the Trojans lost most of their available post players, but managed to stay in the fight until the very end.
“I was proud of our guys’ resiliency, their togetherness, their toughness and unfortunately for us, we came out on the wrong end,” Head Coach Steve Shields said.
The coach pointed out the similar way that the team fought on the road against Louisiana in a double-overtime 93-87 loss earlier in the season. The Trojans were without all of the team captains going into the game with senior Will Neighbour, Isler and J.T. Thomas all sitting with various injuries. Thomas was injured early in the season.
“I thought our guys played very well that night and once again…unfortunately for us, we didn’t come out on the right end. [We] had the ball on the last possession with a chance to win and unfortunately couldn’t finish it off,” Shields said.
Shields alluded to what could be considered the theme for the team this season, which was wrought with injuries.
“Guys stepped up in different situations,” he said.
Shields lamented the loss of the two Trojan seniors who played very different but integral roles for the team this season. Neighbour, who missed the last third of the season with ankle and shoulder injuries, was the primary offensive weapon for the team. Neighbour was named to the SBC All-Conference second or third team for three straight seasons, a first for a UALR player.
Isler was the defensive stopper for the team and would always draw the assignment of the best perimeter offensive weapon of the opposing team. A job that is sometimes taken for granted by fans and can be a tough sell for a coach to some players, however, that was not the case with Isler.
“That’s a role that is hard to get guys to embrace, because it’s not something that’s real glamorous and Leroy embraced it from day one,” Shields said.
“The thing that I’m most proud with both of those guys is that they’re both going to graduate in May and that’s something that is very important to us here and will help open up future doors for those two guys.”
Season ends too soon for the women’s team finding its stride
The Lady Trojans season played out like a movie that ended right as the plot was getting good. The team had won eight of nine games before losing to Western Kentucky 66-62 in the second round of the Sun Belt Conference tournament.
The Lady Trojans came back from large deficits in both the first and second halves, but could not take the lead after tying the game late in the second. The loss left the Lady Trojans with a 18-12 overall record for the season and also left head coach Joe Foley wondering what could have been had the season lasted just a little longer.
“I think the season just ended a little bit too quick, because I think we were coming on,” Foley said. “I’d like had another week or two to kind of see what would’ve happened.”
The Lady Trojans finished the season with an outstanding 13-1 home record, losing only to an LSU team that was ranked #13 at the time.
“It’s very rewarding when a team takes pride and plays at home that hard,” Foley said. “We almost went undefeated at home, so I’m very proud of that. Hopefully that’s something that will carry over to next year with all the kids coming back.
As for the three seniors, Taylor Ford, Hannah Fohne and Nia Gregory, Foley hates to see them go, but like the way that they handled academics as well as athletics.
“They’re kind of the epitome of what you want in a student-athlete. They did both sides of it very well,” he said. “When you’ve got kids like that, it causes you a lot less stress as a coach and makes it lot more enjoyable.”