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Mar. 23, 2015

March maddening for Vikings Basketball

By Jordan Smith

March has been more of a horror story than a Cinderella fairy-tale for the Cleveland State University men’s basketball team.

After a defeat during the regular season finale against the Valparaiso Crusaders, Cleveland State fell to a record of 17-13 to conclude the regular season.

The team began its postseason schedule in Valparaiso, Ind. with a game against the University of Detroit. The Vikings pummeled the Titans by a final score of 70-63 in the Horizon League quarterfinal game. Point guard Charlie Lee hit four of five shots from three-point land on his way to a game-high 17-points.

Coach Gary Waters said senior forward Marlin Mason provided the biggest spark for the Vikings. He posted 13 rebounds and nine points, just one away from his third career double-double.

“I thought our guys mentally came out ready to play and I thought we were outstanding on defense,” Waters said during the postgame conference.

After the Vikings won their quarter-final -matchup, they were guaranteed another chance to defeat Valparaiso. According to Waters, it was the opportunity that the team had been waiting for.

“Our guys really wanted to play Valpo again,” he said. “They remember the last outing and both games this year have been close. I think we will mentally be ready to go.”

The Vikings faced off with the Crusaders again on March 7, where they would once again fall to the eventual Horizon League Champs. Valparaiso defeated Cleveland State in the semifinal round by a final score of 60-55. Forward Anton Grady led the Vikings in scoring, rebounds and assists with 20, 11 and six respectively. It was a fairly even contest all night. Cleveland State shot 39 percent from the field while Valparaiso hit 38 percent of field goals.

“I thought our kids played hard enough to win tonight,” Waters said following the defeat. “Those are two pretty even teams but we didn’t capitalize on some opportunities down the stretch.”

Cleveland State’s biggest vice late in the season came back to haunt them in the conference semifinal as the team was on the wrong end of a 21-3 free-throw shooting ratio in the second half.

Overall, the team shot 73 percent from the charity stripe.

Although he’d prefer to be on the winning end of things, Waters was still pleased by his team’s performance, saying that he was happy with the way the team battled all game.

The season isn’t over just yet for the Vikings. On Friday, March 13, the team accepted a bid to play in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament. They beat Western Michigan 86-57 on Wednesday, March 18 to move on to play New Jersey Institute of Technology on Monday, March 23.

Women’s Ball

The Cleveland State women’s basketball team began it’s postseason at home with a 76-70 win over the University of Illinois Flames, the first time in five seasons that the team has entered the semifinals.

The team was led in scoring by senior forward Imani Gordon, who put up a season-high of 27. Sophomores Alexis Eckles and Brooke Smith were next in scoring with 13 points each. The team shot 52 percent from the field while the Flames hit 51 percent of their shots.

After the game, coach Kate Peterson-Abiad credited her senior-heavy core for providing the energy they needed to come out victorious.

“Teams that are senior-laden just have so much to play for because this is it for them,” she said. “They were laying it all on the line and when we need buckets I know who’s going to try to score them, it’s going to be our three seniors. They want to finish on a win. They want to win a championship.”

The senior trio of Gordon, Cori Coleman and Kirsten Green combined for a total of 48 points. The trio would combine for 10 more points in a season-ending defeat in the conference semifinals against Wright State University.

Coleman, Gordon and Green scored 20, 14, and 21 respectively in the 99-87 defeat to the Raiders. In the post-game press conference, Peterson-Abiad credited the team for fighting hard, and once again sang the highest of praises about her senior class.

“You didn’t see any sign of ‘we can’t do this,’ nobody was hanging their head,” she said. “I was really proud of just how hard we battled. That was the thing that struck me the most.”

When asked about how key the group was to the team throughout the season, Peterson-Abiad started by calling them a “special group.”

“That year where they were freshmen, we had been picked second in the Horizon League and we had a really good freshman class but we had a bunch of injuries,” she said before recalling Green’s first start for Cleveland State.

“She played 40 minutes [in her] first college game and we got beat by like 30,” she said. “Those kids took their lumps.”

She finished by acknowledging their personalities and what kind of leaders they were.

“They’re the biggest personalities on the team,” Peterson-Abiad said. “They have a lot of heart, a lot of leadership and they’re all pretty darn good players.”