T-Ducks Start MAC play 0-2

With Metro Athletic Conference play underway, each game has now come down to the “little things”: toughness, both mentally and physically, loose balls, execution, mental errors, each rebound, and each free throw. Early in MAC play the T-Ducks have experienced two very tough losses where all of the aforementioned were not completed.

The T-Ducks (11-10, 0-2) started off MAC play by traveling to Cedar Valley College last Saturday. Several around the area have chosen the Suns to be the early favorite of the conference. The NJCAA nation’s leading scorer plays for Cedar Valley, averaging close to 30 points per game.

The T-Ducks started off slow falling behind in the first 5 minutes 7-2, only to respond for the remaining 15 minutes of the 1st half. Sophomore Cory Pace was able to connect from 3 point range. And sophomore Robert Sykes made his presence felt in the paint with the big boys. The T-Ducks were able to regain composure after the slow start to close the game to 22-26 with 10 minutes to play in the first half. After some key shots by freshman Billy Sherakas and some key defensive possessions keeping the Suns from scoring, the T-Ducks went in to halftime tied with the conference favorite Suns, 42-42.

The second half began much like the first however. In the first eight offensive possessions, the T-Ducks turned the ball over six of those times. These possessions were critical because the Suns were unable to capitalize on several of those. Therefore the score stayed close. However at the 10 minute mark of the second half the T-Ducks had scored just six points, to the Suns’ 14 points making the score 57-68. Freshman Tradarreon “Tutu” Moreland came off of the bench to provide a spark on the inside as he finished the game 2-for-2 from the field and eight rebounds. Freshman Billy Sherakas provided the offensive firepower with a team leading 18 points. The Suns began to pull away during the last five minutes by making free throws and handed the T-Ducks their first MAC loss, 85-72.

The T-Ducks out-rebounded the Suns 35-33, and the shot 12 of 18 from the free throw line.

After the tough road test with Suns, the T-Ducks had another challenge facing them on Wednesday, the NJCAA Division III National Champions from a year ago, the Mt. View Lions. Back to back tough games would test the character of this young T-Duck team that with growth and maturing can be really good. The T-Ducks started out slow but kept the game close. Sophomores Robert Sykes and Cory Pace provided the early scoring early. Freshmen Cord Arriola, Tradarreon Moreland, Michael Richardson, and Billy Sherakas provided sparks off of the bench. After being down 8-13 in the first five minutes, the T-Ducks responded with a 16-5 run take a 25-18 lead halfway through the first half. Shortly after the lead increased to a 12 point margin, only to see the Thunderducks’ lead lost by halftime, 47-50. The T-Ducks played a solid first half both offensively and defensively. They were able to go in to the locker room with a season low five turnovers. But three of those were in the last two minutes of the half, leading to easy baskets for the Lions.

The T-Ducks came out for the second half with the same spark and intensity they showed during the first half. Sophomore Nathan Smith provided the spark by scoring three straight baskets which sparked a 10-7 run by the T-Ducks in the first five minutes. Moreland once again came up big with some physical play on the inside as he finished the game with eight rebound (4 offensive, 4 defensive). Freshmen Michael Richardson also made his presence felt on the inside. And Billy Sherakas connected on several long range bombs, including a four point play as he was fouled making a three pointer in the corner. The game was back and forth for much of the last 10 minutes as the teams stayed within no more than 5 points of each other. The T-Ducks were able to force the Lions in to bad shots. But they were unable to get rebounds. With just under three minutes to go, the momentum swung to the Lions. Sherakas was called for his fifth foul and immediately following that, Moreland was called for his fifth foul. The Lions converted their four free throws taking a one point lead. With the game still in the balance the T-Ducks had three chances to win the game in the last minute. But they were unable to make wide-open, point-blank lay-ups when needed. The T-Ducks would be handed their second MAC loss, 92-87.

The T-Ducks were out-rebounded 48-39 and shot 23 of 33 from the free throw line compared to the Lions 36-39 free throw attempts.

The T-Ducks will play host to North Lake College (12-8, 1-1) this Saturday at 2 p.m. The Blazers are coming off of an overtime loss the Cedar Valley College.