Three games against Manhattanville, three important moments in the Freedom Conference season.
Each of the King’s, Wilkes and Misericordia men’s basketball teams can look back at a meeting with the Valiants and wonder what might have been.
On this, the final day of the regular season, however, Misericordia has one more shot with Manhattanville. The Cougars travel to Purchase, N.Y., today with a home playoff game on the line. King’s and Wilkes, both of whom are out of the postseason race, will face each at the Marts Center today to close out the campaign.
Both contests tip at 3 p.m. following the respective women’s games at 1 p.m.
• Misericordia had been unceremoniously dumped by the Valiants back on Dec. 7 in Dallas, falling 73-63. That loss sent the Cougars into the semester break at 0-2 in league play. But in the second semester, Misericordia has gone 8-3 against Freedom opponents and can lock up the No. 2 seed in next week’s conference tournament by beating the Valiants today.
Though the Cougars have already clinched a postseason berth, the difference between a win or a loss this afternoon is a big one.
A win puts them back at the Anderson Center, where they are 9-2 on the season, hosting a semifinal game Wednesday against the winner of today’s game between FDU-Florham and Delaware Valley.
Lose? Well, then it’s right back on the bus Wednesday to make that same two-and-a-half hour trip to Manhattanville as the No. 3 seed.
Manhattanville is the only playoff contender the Cougars have yet to beat this season. Misericordia has wins over top-seeded DeSales as well as DelVal and FDU. All three of those victories came in a row in January and fueled the team’s strong second half.
“Any time you win a road game, you feel like (it’s important),” Cougars coach Trevor Woodruff said after beating King’s this week to lock up a playoff spot. “It’s going to help you somewhere, especially if you stumble at home like we did (against Manhattanville).”
• King’s was eliminated from the playoff race by a very narrow margin earlier this week. Though the Monarchs can tie two of FDU, DelVal and Manhattanville in the standings by beating Wilkes today, the tiebreakers just don’t fall their way to claim the last seed.
A big reason for that would be a painful loss to the Valiants in January in which Manhattanville rallied from 20 points down in the second half to win. Had the Monarchs s held on, they would have been in the driver’s seat to qualify today.
King’s made a strong surge late in the season in part because the coaching staff doesn’t believe in dwelling on all of the postseason scenarios, worrying only about the task at hand.
“It’s the way it goes. The focus is (the game), nothing bigger,” coach J.P. Andrejko said after the Misericordia game. “You have one goal, and that’s to win tonight.”
Today the Monarchs will have a shot at a season sweep of the rival Colonels, whom they beat 67-60 last month.
• Wilkes’ most recent meeting with Manhattanville was actually a victory, and a very impressive one at that.
Two week ago today, the Colonels kept their playoff hopes alive by crushing the Valiants 98-75 in Wilkes-Barre. Coach Jerry Rickrode had some distinguished program alums speak to his team leading up to the game, giving the roster a very noticeable spark.
The trick, however, was sustaining that intensity. Wilkes ultimately dropped the next three contests coming into today’s game, nearly upsetting No. 1 DeSales on Tuesday.
Wilkes will be looking to snap a three-game skid against the Monarchs today to close out a trying season for the Colonels, who will finish with their fewest wins in 22 seasons under Rickrode.
“In this profession, when you win a game — for me, I don’t think much about it and I don’t spend much time on it,” Rickrode said after the first meeting with the Monarchs. “But the losses are devastating. They’re devastating.
“When you’re losing league games by four, four, seven, and you’re playing half the game at your full throttle — that’s irritating to me.”