The APU men’s basketball team is fighting for their season more than ever before, and they are now in a position to make the PacWest tournament. Currently riding a four game winning streak, the Cougars are 14-13 with only three games left in the regular season.
Their most recent win came on senior night and their final home game of the season against Concordia on Feb. 11, where the Cougars came out attacking from both sides of the ball, beating the Eagles 84-55.
“I didn’t know we would beat them as much as we did, but we were hungry for the win and were ready to go,” senior forward Joey Schreiber said. “I think we’re starting to really click and come together. There was great energy, and it was a great way to go out in our last game here.”
APU set the tone early and kept the momentum throughout the entire game, putting on a dominant show at home. The team chemistry was at an all-time high, as the Cougars dominated in every category of the game. Sophomore guard Connor Peterson had 22 points against Concordia, the most points for the Cougars on the night, followed by junior forward Corey Langerveld with 20. Schreiber has 15 points and 10 rebounds on the night, while junior forward Petar Kutlesic had 13 points and six rebounds.
Peterson even drilled a half-court shot at the buzzer before going into halftime, electrifying the crowd and the team.
“I just had to throw that one up and it felt good right when it came off, so I kind of knew that it was going to go in,” Peterson said.
This performance was a completely different story from when they first played Concordia earlier in the season, losing 85-68 on Dec. 1.
“The first time we played them, we had some different lineup changes and weren’t clicking very well on either end of the floor. Now we have picked it up and realized that we’re all we have right now. Our mentality is that if we’re going to go down, we’re going to go down shooting,” Peterson said. “Everyone is attacking the point, everyone is taking open shots, no one’s passing anything up, and that opens up everything for us.”
The four game winning streak has been anchored by the two seniors on the team: Schreiber and guard Justin Byrd.
On Feb. 2, Schreiber broke two school records, scoring 48 points and hitting 10 three-point shots in a 95-79 win over Hawaii Hilo. The previous scoring record was 45 points, which was set in 1974 by Ric Reed and matched in 1984 by Kendal Berkley. The victory snapped a three-game losing streak and was the start to their four-game win streak.
On Feb. 9 against Point Loma, Byrd scored a career-high 17 points in a 73-64 victory, leading the way to a season sweep over the Sea Lions.
“Justin and Joey are huge keys for us,” head coach Justin Leslie said. ” This was a new role for them this year. They’re the seniors that are expected to contribute consistently and that other guys look to. They’re really growing up and stepping up for the team.”
The Cougars will play their next game at Fresno Pacific on Feb. 18. Their goal is to win out the regular season with momentum, and make it into the postseason.
“We have an idea of how good we can be. We have a standard that we’re trying to chase,” Leslie said. “In this last stretch, we want to make the postseason and we want to be playing well going into it. That’s a goal we have right now, and I’m proud of the progress we’re making.”
Previously on a five game winning streak, the young women’s basketball team looked to be in good shape, but after two straight losses the Cougars were looking to get back to their winning ways.
That’s exactly what they did in their final home game against Concordia, defeating the Eagles 77-65 on Feb. 11.
“It’s nice to play at home at any time. We didn’t have any seniors this year, so it didn’t have the nostalgia, but it was our last home game, and we wanted to finish strong because we want to continue to play as long as we can by winning these types of games,” head coach T.J. Hardeman said.
The Cougars came out strong, gaining a 12-point lead in the first quarter. However, many missed shots allowed Concordia to get back into the game, tying the score at 29 at halftime.
The team made sure to address their miscues and tighten up defensively to get back into the game. Hardeman told his players that there was no reason to force any shots, and that if they could keep Concordia from getting easy points, they would win the game. The Cougars had a good third quarter, and eventually took a steady lead over the Eagles.
“The difference between the second and third quarter was how we played on defense,” Hardeman said. “We knew we didn’t played a good second quarter and I’m pleased with how we responded after halftime.”
In the fourth quarter, APU outplayed Concordia, shutting them down on offense, and giving their players the opportunities to score. Junior forward Gabrielle Kaiser led the team with 18 points and 10 rebounds on the night, along with four blocks. This was Kaiser’s second double-double performance this season.
Kaiser humbly thanked her teammates for her success, along with the unity and trust that they have with each other.
“As a team, we have definitely grown a lot since our first game. We play so well together now, and there’s a lot more trust between us,” Kaiser said. “My success is from my team and from their hard work. It’s all a team effort in coming together and winning games.”
After struggling in the first half with a few missed shots, junior guard Abigail Goodsell finished strongly on the night, finishing second on the team in scoring with 14 points.
“The first half was definitely a mental battle for me, but my team and coaches do a really good job at picking me up when I’m not hitting my shots, and they carried me,” Goodsell said. “That was really helpful for me in the second half to really focus on my form and knock down my shots.”
This victory was needed for the Cougars, who were looking to gain momentum heading into their final three games of the regular season. They will play at Fresno Pacific on Feb. 18 next.
“With this win, we definitely have our momentum back,” Goodsell said. “It’s easy for new teams to get consistent and then fall off, but we always get back on, and we’re ready to go back on our streak and get these last three games under our belt for the tournament.”