The men’s basketball team will get one final chance at redemption and the final spot in the GLIAC playoffs this weekend.
After losing two games on the road last weekend, NMU comes home for its final home series to play the Hillsdale Chargers on Thursday and Findlay Oilers on Saturday.
“We are still in the hunt for the playoffs, and basically everybody in our league is,” head coach Dean Ellis said. “We are all in a battle for it, and fortunately for us the teams that we were really close to lost over the weekend too, so we will be ready to play on Thursday.”
NMU (11-12 overall, 6-12 GLIAC) is stuck in a hard spot as the ‘Cats have to win their final four games of the season in order to make the playoffs. Michigan Tech is in the fourth and final spot, three games ahead of NMU and Saginaw Valley is one game ahead of the Wildcats at fifth.
Not only do the ‘Cats have to hope for the best, but they have to make the best happen against a Hillsdale team who beat NMU 64-61 earlier this season, and the No. 1 team in the nation, the Findlay Oilers.
Despite the odds being stacked against them, NMU is not throwing in the towel yet, said senior center Eric Sirrine.
“I think it is definitely possible we can get in two good games for the last two home games and hopefully come out on top,” he said.
Sirrine, along with fellow classmen center Kyle Greene and guard Tyler Kazmierkoski will be playing in their final home series this weekend.
Sirrine said even though he and the seniors haven’t had the best year in the record books he still is satisfied with the year.
“It has been fun, I mean, I play with a great group of guys, so I couldn’t ask for anything else,” he said. “We always joke around that we may not be the best team, but I bet we have the most fun.”
Freshman point guard Raymont McElroy, who scored 22 points in Saturday lost to Ferris, said the seniors this year have been a big aspect not only in the team’s play, but also in his personal improvement.
“They’re excellent as far as off the court and being a role model,” McElroy said. “Every day we learn from them — every day it is something new.”
McElroy also spoke highly of Sirrine being a leader at the practices.
“He never has had a problem with coach. He is always here on time – he is here early actually. He always knows what is going on no matter what,” McElroy said. “I don’t think coach has yelled at him one time this season.”
For a senior who has put in the work, like Sirrine, he wants nothing more to end his career at Northern on a good note.
“I think it would be nice just to come out of the weekend with two wins, but it’s going to be hard especially since we’re playing against two really tough teams.” Sirrine said.
The first of the two home games for the ‘Cats is against Hillsdale (12-10, 10-8). The Chargers have won seven of their past nine games, including wins over Grand Valley and Ferris State.
Ellis said for the ‘Cats to compete they are going to have to be ready for the play of seniors Tony Gungino, at center who averages 15.3 points per games, and guard Keith Mackenzie, 12 points per game.
“You need to control those guys as well as you can, and compete with them because they’re going to come out ready to compete every night,” Ellis said.
Greene said that NMU didn’t play well against Hillsdale the first time and thinks Thursday is going to be a different story.
“Last time we played them it just didn’t seem like we were all playing at our best,” he said. “And we’ve gotten better since then so we should just be able to come out with a win this time.”
Tip-off for Thursday’s game is at 8 p.m. followed by Saturday’s match against the No. 1 team in the nation, the Findlay Oilers at 3 p.m.