WATERTOWN, Wis. -- The 2017-18 season saw the Sabercats achieve the goal that had so closely eluded them for the last last 15 years: winning the NCCAA regional championship and qualifying for the NCCAA National Tournament.
The 6th-place NCCAA National finish was the Sabercats' best showing since they finished 4th in 2003, and the team won 16 games for just the second time since 2000. In terms of performance, this year's group recorded 2,284 points, which is the 4th-highest mark in program history. As a side note, the Sabercats' defense was the best in the NCCAA DII, as they allowed less than 70 points per game while limiting their opponents to shooting less than 40 percent.
It was truly a noteworthy season.
One of the main stories of the year was the Sabercats' NCCAA dominance at the regional level, as they won every regional clash they were in during the regular season - 7 games in total.
With the target painted on their backs, the Sabercats entered the NCCAA North Regional Tournament as the #2 seed, but neither their surprising seeding nor the pressure of being undefeated seemed to faze them. The Sabercats dismantled #6 Calvary, #3 Emmaus, and #4 Oak Hills to take the regional title by storm.
In regional the regional tournament, the Sabercats didn't just win; they took control. Not once did they trail, and they won by an average of 30 points over the 3-day stretch.
In their 10 regional games combined, the Sabercats averaged 88 points per game while holding their regional foes to a non-threatening average of 61. It was a bona fide thrashing of the region, and the Sabercats earned their first trip to the National Tournament since 2003 because of it.
At the national tournament, the Sabercats' title hopes were ended during the first day of competition, as they fell to Johnson University Tennessee by a score of 90-73. JUT's offense lived up to their reputation, as they entered the tournament as the best scoring offense in the NCCAA DII with 93.8 points per game.
The next morning, the Sabercats squared off against the second-best offense in the NCCAA DII in Kentucky Christian University. Thanks to a noteworthy 33 points from Micah Shepard and a solid team performance all around, the Sabercats extended their stay in South Carolina by winning 85-78 over the defending national runners-up.
On the final day of the season, the Sabercats fell 68-76 to Dallas Christian College, but even that loss still helped the Sabercats secure their best NCCAA National Finish in 15 years.
Other noteworthy results came when the Sabercats posted back-to-back 100-point games against Dayspring and North Central (UMAC) in late November. The win against North Central was a 105-97 win in overtime, and it was the first time the Sabercats had beaten the perennial NCCAA DII powerhouse since 1996.
Another key win came on Jan. 20, when a 30-point performance from Shepard was the catalyst in a 91-81 win over Crown College (UMAC) in Minnesota. Those 2 wins against UMAC opposition gave the Sabercats confidence in their ability to perform against solid DIII schools in the region.
STATS AND SPORTS INFO
MBU recorded the following top-5 records for performances in a season.
- 1st- Team Offensive rebounds: 369*
- 1st- Team Defensive rebounds: 944*
- 1st- Team Total rebounds: 1,313*
- 4th- Team Total points: 2,284
- 1st- Team Assists: 460*
- 1st- Team Defensive FG percentage: 37.4
- 1st- Team Steals: 236*
- 3rd- David Lerma: 61 steals*
- 4th- Micah Shepard: 45 steals*
- 5th- Jonathan Book: 105 assists*
- 3rd- Justin Blake: 37 blocks*
Other statistical milestones were as follows:
- First consecutive 100-point games against Dayspring (11/28/17) and North Central (11/30/17)
- T1st in a game: 5 blocks for Justin Blake at Bethany Lutheran - 1/13/18*
- T3rd in a game: 38 points for Micah Shepard vs North Central - 11/30/17
- T3rd in a game: 60 team rebounds vs Dayspring - 11/28/17*
- T4th in a game: 27 team assists at Emmaus - 1/23/18*
- T2nd in a game: 8 team blocks at Bethany Lutheran - 1/13/18*
*Indicates a category that has statistical tracking from 2000 and on.
- Record: 16-14
- NCCAA Record: 11-2
- NCCAA National Finish: 6th
- Final NCCAA National Ranking: 6th
- NCCAA All-America Selections:
- Micah Shepard (2nd Team)
- NCCAA All-Region Selections:
- Micah Shepard (North Region MVP), Micah Shepard (1st Team), Jonathan Book (2nd Team), David Lerma (3rd Team), Bryce Cashner (Honorable Mention)
- AD3I All-Independent Selections:
- Jonathan Book, Micah Shepard, David Lerma (2nd Team)
- NCCAA Scholar-Athletes:
- Matt Gill, CJ Jones, Rob Sonnenberg
Looking forward, the Sabercats will have 2 holes to fill in their starting 5, as both Micah Shepard and Bryce Cashner concluded their 4-year careers this season. Perhaps the biggest takeaway from this group is the fact that they have gained national-tournament experience and an NCCAA regional title - two things that are certain to help them next year as they advance into the postseason.
FROM COACH KEITH
"I think the guys got tired of making it to the regional championship game and losing," reflected Coach Keith Salscheider. "They felt the urgency of the moment and played together - five guys on the floor looking for the team advantage. It was special to watch.
"I think our blowout loss to WLC was a turning point [this season]," said Salscheider. "I think the guys realized that our success as a group was up to them. I think the win I was most proud of this year was defeating Kentucky Christian at Nationals. They were a great team, [and] they were the runner-up at last year's Nationals. For us to compete the way we did against a national powerhouse like KCU was great. It is our challenge to continue on that path."
Micah Shepard finished his 4-year career in style be being named NCCAA North Region MVP, AD3I 1st Team All-Independent, and as an NCCAA All-America 2nd Team selection. The senior shooter knocked down his 1,000th career point in February, and he finished his career in Blue and Gold with 1,154 career points and 435 rebounds. Shepard climbed in the career scoring charts, as he finishes 12th in the all-time records for career points at Maranatha. Shepard recorded 3 games this season with 30 points or more.
Jonathan Book was a mainstay for the Sabercats all season. While his season ended with an injury that kept him out of the national tournament, the quick junior led the Sabercats in assists (3.9/game) and finished third on the team in points per game (12.1). Book shot a tidy 53 percent from the field and averaged over 28 minutes per game. He was named to the NCCAA North Region 2nd Team and the AD3I All-Independent 1st Team.
David Lerma transferred in an proved to be a permanent fixture in the Sabercats' starting 5. Lerma was an asset on defense and offense, as he ranked 2nd on the team in points per game (12.3) and 1st in total steals with 61. That 61-steals mark is the third-best in the program record books (dating back to 2000). Lerma earned AD3I 2nd-Team honors and was named to the 3rd team All-North Region for the NCCAA.
To learn more about the team, visit their team page by clicking here.
*Men's Basketball are subject to incomplete season data. If you find an error, provide documentation of your proposed correction to firstname.lastname@example.org