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Basketball Remains CCIW Hopeful

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As the Red Men and Lady Reds seasons come to a close, the competition heats up and so does the possibility of a slot in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW) Tournament. Both teams hope their successful seasons have proven to be enough for a chance to continue past the regular season.

The men’s basketball team proved once again they are a substantial staple in Carthage Athletics. Team success, however, has flourished for the Red Men (14- 6, 7-4 CCIW) in the 2016-17 season.

With a core group of players in Mike Stevenson, ‘17, Jordan Thomas, ‘19, Brad Perry, ‘20, Brad Kruse, ‘18, and Kevin Kozil, ‘17, the team has produced a powerful offense and defense all season long. The increase in bench depth has also made possibilities endless for the Red Men.

“This is a different team in that we have a strong balance of inside and outside players and it has fit very well. We have a lot of experienced players and yet two or three very new players who have been key players for us all year long,” said head coach Bosko Djurickovic.

With a season schedule that included opponents throughout the Midwest and a trip to California, the experience has been crucial for conference success.

“We have a really tough conference and our non-conference games really helped prepare us during January and February. Going to the west coast and playing out there especially helped us bond as a team moving forward,” said Kruse.

With only conference games left in the season and an optimistic playoff picture, the team continues to practice as if every game is a championship given the league’s strong competition.

“Anytime you start your season you hope to contend for a conference championship, and it’s a matter of what you do throughout the season to get there. This league is deep with many outstanding teams every year, so for us every game has meaning regardless of standings,” said Djurickovic.

In contrast, Lady Reds basketball has seen a variety of change in comparison to the men’s team and to prior seasons. These changes have included the Lady Reds (12-8, 6-5 CCIW) increasing in roster size with 10 freshmen, a share of scoring wealth among players, and a season which has seen the Lady Reds with newfound potential to be victorious.

“It’s very refreshing to be able to have so many players on our team, because basketball is not meant to be about one person, but the team. So if a player goes down, we still have other players to help us stay in the game,” said forward Rachel Szydlowski, ‘19.

Although Mandy Hozzian, ‘17, is the only remaining player from the last team which won the CCIW title, head coach Tim Bernero is confident the young team can reach the same level of success the 2014 team achieved.

“We’re in the top 10 in the nation for schedule difficulty, and through that schedule the players gain an understanding of what it means to play at a high level. This in turn better prepares us for our CCIW games because it is a very competitive conference,” said Bernero.

In order to qualify for the CCIW Championship tournament, the Lady Reds will need to defeat Illinois Wesleyan University and Elmhurst College, both of whom the Lady Reds have lost to. The Lady Reds will also need to ward off North Park University, Millikin University and Carroll University, teams the Lady Reds have previously beaten in conference action.

“Now that we’re seeing these teams a second time through, we’re understanding what it is that we can do to better ourselves towards that playoff picture. By qualifying for the CCIW tournament, we will have proven that we can beat the teams that are matched against us,” said Bernero.

The Red Men have secured a spot in the CCIW Tournament, while in order for the Lady Reds to make the tournament, they must win the final three games coupled with Augustana College losing their final three games.

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