Men’s basketball looks ahead to next season

Sophomore guard Sam Taylor sets up a play from a previous home game at the Berry Events Center. Taylor is one of the players that coach Sall will rely on next year to carry the ’Cats back to the GLIAC tournament and beyond. Photo by: Lindsey Eaton

Sophomore guard Sam Taylor sets up a play from a previous home game at the Berry Events Center. Taylor is one of the players that coach Sall will rely on next year to carry the ’Cats back to the GLIAC tournament and beyond. Photo by: Lindsey Eaton

Nate Bellville

While students were out on spring break, the first winning season, and most successful in 10 years for the Northern Michigan Men’s Basketball team, came to a close in the GLIAC Tournament as they lost in the quarterfinals to the Ashland University Eagles 83-72 in over- time.

In the quarterfinal game, the Eagles jump-started out into an 11-2 lead. NMU clawed back to a 15-10 deficit after a three by senior guard Jordan Perez. Perez brought the Wildcats their first lead after hitting two more threes. NMU bolstered a 34-12 run that featured seven more threes as the Wildcats went into halftime up 44-27.

NMU’s hot shooting continued into the second half with another three by junior forward Will Carius and a dunk by sophomore center Myles Howard, extending their lead to 15. However, Ashland responded with a nine-point run to make it 61- 53 Wildcats. Both teams sent each other to the charity stripe through the rest of the game. The Wildcats, however, were unable to close out the Eagles, who tied the game at 65. Echols missed a three shot that would have won the game, and the game would be decided in
overtime.

Ashland’s seven point run in extra minutes, followed up with another five-point run would be the deciding factors as the Eagles eliminated the Wildcats, 83-72.

The team will lose seniors, Perez and guard Eddie Tornes to graduation, but they’ll look ahead to a stacked line- up of underclassmen eager to take a step forward. Echols, Johnson, and junior center Max Prendergast are expected back as seniors to provide some leadership for head coach Bill Sall.

The 15-13 overall record, along with an 12-8 mark in conference play is the best record for the Wildcats since the 2006- 07 season. This year also saw the Wildcats making their first post-season appearance since that same season.

The team also saw four Wildcats receiving honors for their on-court efforts. Echols and Johnson were named to the all-GLIAC first team. Howard and sophomore guard Sam Taylor were named to the all-GLIAC defensive team.
Echols lived up to preseason expectations, as he led the team with 17.5 points per game and contributed 3.4 assists a game. Echols also finished in double digit figures in all but four games this season. He heads into his senior season having already scored over 1,000 career points, the 30th person to do so in team history.

Johnson started every game for the Wildcats this season, which was a big boost to his point scoring totals while also collecting 5.5 rebounds per game. He also will return for his senior season tied for the lead in three-point shooting percentage as well, hitting 41.3 percent of his threes.

Howard’s finished the season with 1.8 blocks per game and 48 blocks this season, good for second most in the conference. Taylor finished with 1.4 steals per game, and recorded 40 on the year. He’s the only player on the team that has notched one steal in every game this season. Both players were the first from NMU to be named on the all-defensive team since current assistant coach Terry Nash did so in 2016.