By Hutton Jackson
A&E and Online Editor
This article was originally published in Issue 8, Fiftieth Year of The Minstrel (February 4, 2016). Click here to view the entire issue.
Men’s and women’s basketball are both in the hunt for first place in the Freedom Conference. At press time, men are 14-6 and the women are 15-5. The men’s team is 6-3 in the conference and the women’s team is 8-1.
The men are currently second in the Freedom Conference and are 8-2 at home. The team hasn’t lost more than two consecutive games and has won seven of its last nine. The team also currently leads the conference in assists per game and shooting percentage.
In addition to the Bulldogs’ success as a team, several players have exceled individually. Junior Kuity Slanger is currently averaging almost five assists per game and leads the Freedom Conference in assists with 97. Senior and team captain Cody Deal leads the team with 269 points and in January surpassed 1,000 career points, an accomplishment only 25 DeSales players previously reached.
“Cody is an excellent player with tremendous basketballs skills and a high basketball IQ,” said head coach Scott Coval. “What makes [Cody] special is he’s all about the team achieving. He’s unselfish and an unbelievable teammate who is always picking other players up.”
When discussing his personal accomplishments, Deal demonstrated his selflessness.
“Coach Coval was able to put me in good spots for me to be effective. We’ve been successful because of how many weapons we have and our ability to play unselfishly,” said Deal. “Our versatility as a team and our multitude of good players are probably our biggest strengths.”
The women are also having one of their best seasons in years and have gotten off to a 8-1 start in conference play for the first time since the 2008- 09 season. They have won 10 of their last 11 games and are currently in first place in the Freedom Conference. The team also hasn’t lost more than two consecutive games.
When asked how the team has been able to consistently play so well, coach Fred Richter, who is in his 26th season as head coach, said the addition of new players and the depth of the team’s roster has contributed to their success this season.
“Our deep roster has helped with injuries. This year, when a girl goes down, we are able to reload. The team has also really meshed as a group this year, and this is in part due to the leadership of our two captains, [seniors Jen Napolitano and Kelly Anthony],” said Richter. “We can score at any position and have different people show up on different nights, which makes us very difficult to guard.”
Sophomore Kaitlin Kelly and Napolitano lead the team in three-pointers with 42 each. Napolitano is also second in points with 210 and is averaging over 10 points per game. Junior Morgan McCollian leads the team in numerous statistical categories with 318 points, 170 rebounds and 25 blocks.
“Morgan is very strong physically. She has been so successful because we get her the ball in very good places and she can finish around the basket,” Richter said.
Although the team has only lost one game in the conference so far, Richter stressed that the team must continue to improve and said that they are looking to get back to their defensive roots.
“Our first priority is defense and if we can get back to that we can continue to play well,” said Richter. “Defending, rebounding and scoring on fast breaks are our bread and butter.”
“Coach really stresses a mentality that is probably different from most teams,” added Napolitano. “He always tells us that our goal shouldn’t be to win. Instead, our goal should be to play well and to make defense our calling card, and as long as we do these two things, winning will take care of itself.”
Richter noted that every team he has coached is unique, but talked about how he believes that this team has what it takes to be successful on and off the court.
“This is a good group of ladies who have priorities. They are students first and athletes second.”
As both teams enter the final stretch of Freedom Conference play, players and coaches remain focused and ready to fight for a Freedom Conference Championship and a NCAA playoff bid.
“I think our team’s success can largely in part be attributed to our determination and ability to adapt. We lost a couple big games in the beginning of the season and instead of hanging our heads we kept improving and working to get better,” said senior Kelly Anthony. “This year we are looking to win a MAC Championship and secure a spot in the NCAA [tournament].”
“I think we have really good guys on the team,” said Coval. “They take pride in representing DeSales and their pride translates on to the court every time they put on the uniform.”
This Saturday at home, both the men’s and women’s teams will play conference rivals Delaware Valley in an attempt to avenge losses to the Aggies in each of the teams’ previous meetings. The women will play at 1 p.m. and the men will follow at 3 p.m.