Despite Losses, Men’s Basketball Takes Pride in Leadership and Growth of Progam

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Although this week’s matchups for the men’s basketball team did not go quite as planned, the team is by no means held down.

Friday’s highly anticipated game against Hamilton proved to be tough, with the Continentals creating a substantial lead by the end of the first. However, the Bobcats didn’t go down without a fight. Jeff Spellman ’20 ended the game with twelve points, coming second only to senior captain Justin Zukowski ’18, who scored the team high for the night of thirteen points. Additionally, first-years David Akinyemi ’21 and Raheem Spence ’21 got on the board, with Akinyemi scoring the first point of his college career, and Spence grabbing two rebounds. Unfortunately, that was not enough to sway the game, and the ’Cats fell 89-57 to Hamilton at the end of the night.

Hoping to snag a win, the Bobcats hosted the Amherst College Mammoths the next evening. The star of the game was undoubtedly Kody Greenhalgh ’20, who scored a team—and season—high of seventeen points. Greenhalgh, with help from consistent scorer Spellman and Nick Gilpin ‘20, held off Amherst until the very end of the game. But the Mammoths were up to the challenge—with help from their 6’ 10” center—scoring nearly fourteen straight points in the following five minutes, and eventually outscoring Bates 80-61.

When talking with the team, their two losses did not seem to be of highest concern. With the ’17-’18 season coming to a close, first-year Billy Larhart ’21 took a moment to appreciate the senior leadership on the team. Zukowski and Shawn Strickland ’18 have been forces to reckon with on and off the court.

“Strick is a natural point guard and has been a floor general for us all season long. He’s always poised with the ball in his hands, and he makes his teammates better. Always has an awesome attitude,” says Larhart. “And Zuke is an animal, simply put. He has a crazy high motor and a great shot. He gives maximum effort every time he’s in between the lines, practice or game. He’s on the floor for every loose ball and makes winning plays every time he’s on the court. That says a lot about him as a senior and a leader.”

When asked to reflect on the past week and their Bates basketball career, both Zukowski and Strickland were candid and cogent.

“Basketball has really shaped my entire experience at Bates. I’ve met some of my best friends, because of the basketball program, and it’s served as an outlet for me when the semesters have been tough, in terms of how much school work I may have at certain points throughout the year,” says Strickland. “Also, being with the program for four seasons now, I’ve been on just about every part of the spectrum in terms of our success. My most memorable moment came during my first season, as I was able to be a part of the first men’s basketball team to advance to the sweet sixteen of the national tournament in school history. It was an incredible feeling to be a part of something that will remain a bright spot in the history of the program for many years to come.”

Zukowski brought the truth about being a student-athlete. “I feel like a lot of people don’t understand how much time is put into being on the basketball team. It’s a long season, and it stretches through both semesters, which makes it hard to keep up with school work,” he says. “It really forces you to enjoy every second of the experience and the people around you. Our program has kept hold of those strong relationships with its alumni, which goes to show how much players have invested themselves in the program. I will never regret playing hoops at Bates, because I made so many great friends along the way who are looking out for me, while I’m doing the same for them. The culture we have built here is really something special.”

The men’s basketball team will have their final matchup of the season this Friday at 7:00 p.m. versus Trinity College.

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