N.J. - According to head coach Howard Levy, the success of the men's
basketball team is no mystery. It can be attributed to a combination
of talent and teamwork. With a record of 5-8 at the winter break,
the Vikings stormed back in the second half of the season by playing
solid team ball. They ended the year as Region 19 champs for the
first time since 1998 and traveled to the National Junior College
Athletic Association (NJCAA) national tournament in Danville, Ill.
a terrific season. The team really improved - maybe more than I've
ever seen from where they started and then going on to win the region,"
While it was
a great accomplishment getting to the national championships, Levy
maintains that his players went out there to win and were quite
disappointed by the results. He believes their two losses - to Kishwaukee
College 82-73 on Mar. 16 and Pima Community College 79-58 on Mar.
18 - were due in part to a loss of momentum after almost two weeks
off between the Region 19 championship and the tournament.
lay-off hurt us. It was harder to stay sharp," Levy said. In
addition, the Vikings' leading scorer, Uros Kovacevic, sprained
his ankle in practice the day before the first game, which limited
says the team had a great experience. "It was a big-time tournament.
We had some good practices. There were lots of coaches scouting
from four-year schools."
Ending the season 20-14, the Vikings clearly embraced Levy's approach
to the game, which includes a disciplined, team-oriented, pass-first,
style of basketball that dates to his own days as a player at Princeton
University. "These guys sacrificed to help the team be better,"
he said. "They realized the roles they were being asked to
play and did what needed to be done."
The team's confidence began to build in January, when the Vikings
started defeating teams they had lost to earlier in the season.
A pivotal point was the Jan. 28 game against Lackawanna, when Mercer
won 63-60 in the closing seconds.
After that win, the men enjoyed a run of 10 wins in 11 games. The
Vikings continued to jell in the Region 19 tournament, with victories
against Essex (70-64) in the quarterfinal on Feb. 23 and Del Tech
(76-68) in the semi-final on Feb. 28, and an upset win against top-seeded
Lackawanna 79-69 in the Region 19 championship game on Mar. 2. (The
Vikings entered the tournament as the third seed.)
According to Levy, in the Region 19 title game, everything came
together. Kovacevic poured in 29 points and Paco Boussougou added
14 points and 11 rebounds. Isaiah Andrews and Quentin Loftin each
added 13 points. Kovacevic earned tournament Most Valuable Player
Second in scoring after Kovacevic was center Paco Boussougou, also
the team's leading rebounder. Point guard Derek Williams played
a key role as well. "It was a different style for him and he
did what was asked to make other guys better when it mattered,"
contributors were point guard Quentin Loftin, who started every
game, forward Isaiah Andrews, who was solid throughout the Region
19 tournament, forwards Gary Carthan and Aaron Smitherman, and guards
Anthony Obery, Quincy Hendryx and Marcus Jimenez.
players received post-season honors. Kovacevic and Boussougou were
GSAC first team selections and Kovacevic was named to the Region
19 second team.
Coach Levy was assisted this season by MCCC alumni Tom DeStephano
and Miles Smith.
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