WATERTOWN, Wis. -- The 2019-20 Sabercats' Men's Basketball season finished with a number of close calls.
Not only was the team just a few minutes shy of upsetting the #1 team in the NCCAA DII at home, but they also were just seconds away from advancing to the NCCAA North Region Championship - a championship that could have been a relatively easy win - on paper, anyway - against the #6-seeded Trinity Bible College Lions. Instead, the team took a 98-88 overtime loss in the regional semifinal to Faith Baptist Bible College to end the season on a low note.
As it turned out, the Sabercats had a close call with heartbreak as well - one that they avoided.
Not going to the NCCAA DII National Tournament meant not having to travel to Joplin only to have the tournament cancelled just hours before it began. A mixed blessing? Maybe, but ask any of the student-athletes, and a regional title still would've been preferred.
All in all, the season had multiple positives: the team finished 11-13 (counting two wins against NCAA-non-countable-opponent Dayspring Bible), and boasted a 5-4 home record. They also went a perfect 5-0 in the regular season against NCCAA North Region opponents.
"It hurts to end the season the way we did," said Coach Joel Borchardt. "It really stung. Especially knowing that was the last game. I told the guys that I hope they remember the game the whole summer so it motivates them to work hard over the summer, and I've already seen guys getting in the gym in prep for next year. Failure is sometimes a good motivator to get better and hopefully it will be good for us moving forward.
"I don't think our record reflected our potential, per se, but it reflected the hard work of the guys to overcome some of the challenges during the season - we only had three returning players that had played meaningful, significant varsity minutes last year. So I think we have significant potential to be better next year now that guys understand their roles. We're definitely excited for next season and to show that we can play well and glorify God in our efforts."
Despite the disappointing ending to the season, the Sabercats still had a number of statistical achievements on a personal and team level:
|Team: Season||40.0 REB/G||4th: Season|
|Team: Season||29.5 DREB/G||4th: Season|
|Team: Season||14.6 AST/G||T-3rd: Season|
|Team: Season||7.5 STL/G||8th: Season|
|Stephen Wilkerson||85.3 FT%||10th: Season|
|Aaron Sanders||3.6 AST/G||9th: Season|
|Aaron Sanders||1.7 STL/G||5th: Season|
*Ball control totals (rebounds, assists, etc.) were tracked beginning in 2000.
The National Christian College Athletic Association released the NCCAA North Region selections during the weekend of the regional tournaments, and Stephen Wilkerson and Aaron Sanders were named as some of the best student-athletes in the North Region.
Wilkerson earned NCCAA North Region 1st-Team honors after leading the Sabercats on the season with 16.9 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. Both of those numbers were career-best marks for the Texan, who highlighted the season by scoring double digits in all but three games, notching eight double-doubles along the way. Wilkerson hit a career-high 34 points in a win at Moody Bible Institute and was a go-to performer all season long.
Sanders earned NCCAA North Region 3rd-Team honors and was a consistent presence all season. Sanders broke into the Maranatha program records books in steals and assists per game (above) and was one of four that started every game for MBU. Sanders chalked up 13 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game, making him a consistent producer in Sabercat colors.
With no seniors on the roster, this young team is poised for improvement next season. The stinging ending to the 2019-20 season will linger, and who knows if it will be just fuel to the fire.