Long winning streak gets Mt. St. Mary’s to the top
The Northeast Conference, home of the Mt. St. Mary’s Mountaineers of Emmitsburg, Maryland, annually sends out its champion to a very low seed in the NCAA tournament. A “play in” game, a 16th seed, a 15th seed or a 14th seed awaits the king of the Northeast Conference. And that usually means a one-game stand in the national championship tournament.
Mt. St. Mary’s was the 2014 conference tournament winner and advanced to the NCAA event.
There is no football at “The Mount.” The only money-making revenue stream from athletic events comes from men’s basketball. So the Mountaineers take to the road, receiving guarantees from much larger schools wanting home games.
In November of this 2016-17 season, Mt. St. Mary’s played eight games . . . and all of them were on the road. There were trips to West Virginia, Iowa State, Minnesota, Michigan and Arkansas.
The only game the Mountaineers won was at George Mason in northern Virginia.
But once the conference schedule began there was a stark reversal of form and the winning began.
Last Thursday, before a vocal crown of about 2,400, the Mountaineers “hosted” Bryant. The student body was given blue t-shirts to wear on “Blue Out” night. “The Mount” had won seven consecutive games, all in the conference, and sported a league-leading 9-1 record.
This is an improving team that starts five underclassmen and one of its leading scorers, Miles Wilson, is a freshman.
The most defining and indispensable player the Mountaineers have is indefatigable point guard Junior Robinson, a 5-foot-5 bundle of non-stop effort.
Robinson is the team’s second-leading scorer, binding glue as its point guard and playmaker and clinging defender against an opponent’s point guard. He scored 15 points in the entertaining, 77-70, win over Bryant.
Wilson missed only two of his 10 field goal attempts and scored 19 points as the Mountaineers made 60-percent of their tries from the field (31-of-52). Elijah Long, the season-long leading scorer, had 21 points and Chris Wray claimed 11 of the team’s 23 rebounds.
“The Mount” had to play well to overcome the outside marksmanship of Bryant’s Nisre Zouzoua, who connected on his first three long range shots and finished with 25 points. Zouzoua came into Emmitsburg last Thursday scoring 20.3 points a game for the Bulldogs, who left the scene with an 8-16 overall record and 5-6 mark in the Northeast Conference.
After trimming Bryant, the Mountaineers had a two-game lead over Fairleigh Dickinson and led both LIU Brooklyn and St. Francis of Pennsylvania by three games. There will be 18 conference games in all. And then comes the league tournament that determines the entrant into the NCAA tournament.
Mt. St. Mary’s has never won the regular season title.
But with Junior Robinson, Miles Wilson, Elijah Long and Chris Wray forging the way through the rest of February this could be a record-setting season on the picturesque campus where the student body of about 1,650 undergraduate students love to come to Knott Arena to see how they can vocally help their team win another game.