Mountaineers focused on ultimate goal of NECC title
BENNINGTON — It has been a spectacular season for the Southern Vermont College men's basketball team.
For the second straight season the Mountaineers won the New England Collegiate Conference regular season title, doing so in historic fashion, going 22-3 on the season with a perfect NECC conference record of 16-0 and finishing the regular season on a 14-game winning streak.
"I am very proud of our team of what they accomplished during the regular season," said SVC Dan Engelstad. "It not easy going undefeated in conference play during the season, so to do that twice shows the hard work that our players and coaches have put in the past couple seasons and we're ready for the next challenge that awaits us."
SVC has dominated their NECC conference opponents over the past few seasons, winning 34 consecutive regular season conference games.
A streak of that magnitude would be something nobody could have imagined four years ago when the Mountaineers went 2-22 and 1-24 in back to back years.
Since only winning one game during the 2012-2013 season, SVC has gone 63-17 and won the ECAC New England championship last season.
"It's a great feeling being able to go from not winning many games to now being one of the top teams in the conference," said senior forward DeShawn Hamlet. "Knowing that all the teams in the NECC looks at us as one of the best teams in the conference and they understand that they're going to have play their best game to try to best us, shows how far we have come the past few years."
As the Mountaineers have ascended to the top of the NECC the past few years, Engelstad and his teams through their hard work and the family type bond the team has with one another, are now ready to take the next step in their journey.
That step is winning the NECC postseason title and getting a berth the NCCA Division III tournament.
"The goal all year has been Southern Vermont College NECC champions," said senior forward Casey Hall. "The whole team has worked hard all season to reach that goal all season long and we've got a great shot to do it in front of our home crowd this weekend."
Because of their regular season conference championship, SVC will host the semifinal and final rounds of the NECC playoff tournament for the second year in a row over the weekend.
The semifinal rounds will being on Friday with SVC playing in the first of the two games against Regis, ironically the team that beat SVC in the finals last year to win the NECC playoff tournament crown.
Facing Regis though is something SVC didn't mind have happen to them.
In fact the Mountaineers wanted to face to Regis.
"We're happy that were playing Regis," Hamlet said. "Didn't matter if was in the semifinals or the finals, we wanted to face them and prove that we can beat them. We want to prove once and for all that were the top in this conference."
In their two contests against Regis this season, SVC has won both games, winning each game by double-digits.
The home court factor will also be an advantage for the Mountaineers, as they are a perfect 9-0 at home this season too.
At the end of the day, though, SVC knows the playoffs are a whole new season and that they need to keep focus and continue to play great basketball to reach their ultimate goal of winning the NECC playoff tournament.
"We ready for the challenge at hand to win the conference title and reach our ultimate goal of getting into the NCAA tournament," Engelstad. "The guys know it's not going to be easy, as every team we will face is going to be good and giving us their best shot. That said though our team is hungry, focused and playing its best basketball of the season, which is exactly where we said we wanted to be when the season began. I really like where our group is at right now and excited to see how they do this weekend."
Tip-off for SVC and Regis will be on Friday at 6 p.m.
NECC playoff tournament ticket admission
BENNINGTON >> The Mountaineer Athletic Center doors will be closed to the public until 5 p.m. on Friday.
From that point on, it is first-come first-serve until they reach capacity (if they do so, they may have to turn people away to remain within fire regulations and prevent people from packing onto the court).
Admission is a requested $3, not required for entrance. Any monetary donations will be accepted at the door.
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