MCCC's new head
basketball coach, Howard Levy, says he believed throughout the season
that his team had a chance to win every game. The Vikings certainly
came close to that goal on Feb. 21 in the opening round of the Region
The Vikings faced Manor College, new to the league this year. Trailing
Manor by 10 points late in the first half, the Vikings came back
to score nine unanswered points and take the lead with eight minutes
remaining. Several missed opportunities in the final minutes proved
critical, however, and the Vikings lost 58-57. "I stress to
my players that every basketball game is decided by a handful of
possessions," Levy said.
The loss was a disappointment to both players and coach. Manor had
proven beatable earlier in the season. In the teams' first match-up
on Jan. 17, Mercer lost 56-52, despite a comfortable lead during
much of the game, but on Jan. 27, the Vikings proved their mettle
with a decisive 65-38 win.
Still, with a final record of 13-15, Levy is satisfied with his
first season at the helm. "The players didn't know me until
the first day of practice. I demanded a lot and they did their best
to meet my expectations. Their work ethic was sound. The team was
competitive in just about every game."
a good run in the middle of the season, when the Vikings posted
a 7-3 record from Jan. 3 through Feb. 3. The last game of that stretch
was a 78-73 overtime win against Essex that qualified them for the
tournament. "But when we faced these same teams late in the
season, to their credit, they had figured out our weaknesses. It
got tougher toward the end."
Going into the season, Levy said the team's lack of height dampened
expectations. "But then the players began to see that the difference
between victory and defeat was not that great. We focused on the
habits that bring success. We told the players to try to control
everything that they could - avoid unforced mistakes, run hard,
and stay alert."
Levy relied on teamwork above all else. "I stressed that I
wanted players to think about the team more than themselves. Ultimately
that benefits each player. Sometimes they got frustrated, but they
gave of themselves for the team," Levy said.
The season's standouts included sophomore forwards and co-captains
Todd Jones and Josh Caver, lead scorer Corye Payton, Steve Perry,
Antoine Rogers, Eric Preston, Josh Merrington and Jonathan Jernigan.
Payton and Caver were named to the All-GSAC First Team and All-Region
19 Second Team.
notes that players learned another key lesson during the season
- juggling basketball with academics. "We strongly encouraged
attendance in class and productive use of their spare time on campus
to study," he said.
focused on recruiting for next season, Levy anticipates the return
of three or four players. He will resume practices this spring to
keep both his returning players and sophomores intent on transfer
in shape. "It's important to stay in shape in the off-season
and I hope to continue the progress we made during the season,"