Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola

The Maroon

Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola

The Maroon

Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola

The Maroon

Men’s basketball team prepares for NAIA regionals

The Loyola men’s basketball team took an unusual route to winning its third straight Southern States Athletic Conference Tournament title.

The Wolf Pack entered last week’s tournament with a 10-14 record. But the team found itself and made history by becoming the first team in the SSAC Tournament to win four games in four days and win the title.

The team’s reward? A date at No. 1 seed Freed-Hardeman at the Brewer Sports Center in Henderson, Tennessee, on Friday at 7 p.m.

“We never gave up, and we believe in each other,” redshirt freshman and MVP of the SSAC tournament, said.

Freed-Hardeman Lions (26-4) made history in Bowling Green, Kentucky, as back-to-back champions of the Mid-South Conference tournament. This was their second time facing Georgetown College in the tournament, with a victory of 71-59.

Head coach Donald Reyes said the team is continuing to build on its foundation and is ready for the matchup against Freed-Hardeman.

“I truly believe we are right where we need to be at this time to compete for another national championship,” Reyes said.

Senior Milan Mejia brings experience to the young team from being part of the NAIA national championship team two seasons ago.

Mejia plans to lead the team and help them understand that not one person can do it alone. By playing together and focusing on what coach Reyes has for the team, Mejia believes that locking in on defense will let their offense come together.

“Coach [Reyes] tries to inspire us to do more for the team than for ourselves,” Mejia said.

Last season, the Wolf Pack lost to Sagu University at the Den in the first round of the national tournament. Freed-Hardeman also lost to Sagu in November 74-71 in Panama City, Florida, during the Battle at the Beach tournament.

While the Lions have the home-court advantage as the number one seed, Reyes said they are ready to take them on.

“Some would say [the match-up is like] David and Goliath in terms of going to their home environment, but we are built for it,” Reyes said. “This isn’t our first time in a foreign environment versus a really good team.”

The Wolf Pack faces a challenge as the Lions have been a prolific offensive team, averaging 84.6 points per game while shooting over 52% from the field goal. The Wolf Pack is averaging 68 points and shooting 42.3% from the field goal.

Reyes said his team didn’t understand who they were as a young team in terms of maturity earlier in the season, but he has been speaking to his players individually. His personal goal is to trust in their hard work to get where they are now.

“It’s just the little things; earlier in the year, we couldn’t get over the hump because we didn’t do the little things,” Lee said. “We understand that everything is not going to be perfect, but as long as we stay together, then we will be straight.”

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