The Millersville Men’s Basketball Team never trailed on Saturday, beginning with a short jumper in the paint 17 seconds into the contest as junior guard Jason Blake put home the first Millersville basket of the 2008-2009 season. Following the make the Marauders turned on the cruise control keeping Penn State Abington in their rear view for the rest of the day as the team opened their season with an 80-51 win against the visiting team.
Millersville entered the game with only two players returning that logged at least ten minutes a game last season, and a total of just six letter-winners from last year’s team. None of that mattered Saturday as the Marauder bench outscored Penn State Abington’s bench 27-7 in the second half and 33-24 by game’s end.
“We’re still looking for an identity,” said Head Coach Fred Thompson “This team is totally different than it was in years past…but we’re glad we got our first win and we’re headed in the right direction.”
Junior Zac Bauermaster and sophomore Rob Coney provided a spark to the Marauders from the bench. Both players saw time last season and made the most of their increased playing time from a year ago. Bauermaster contributed with ten points while Coney came down with 11 rebounds.
Ultimately the team was led by strong performances from its most experienced players’ senior forward and Reggie Bates and senior center Makal Stibbins who both have stepped taken on more responsibilities as leaders for the team this year.
“I’ve been here for three years and it’s my job to help show some of the new guys the ropes and what’s expected of them to be able to contribute to the team at this level,” said Bates.
Bates and Stibbins both recorded double-doubles; Bates finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds while Stibbins, a starter for 10 games last season, finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds, and six blocks, all of which were career highs for Stibbins.
New faces contributed as well, as five players made their debut sporting the Marauder black-and-gold. Junior guard Palmer McDurfee started and finished with 10 points, four boards, and three assists. Transfer guard, Jason Blake, had a solid all-around game with six points, five assists, and four rebounds.
The Marauders took the first step in proving ability to overcome the loss four starters and five other letter-winners. After losing their top three rebounders from last season, three players finished with at least 10 rebounds as the team out-rebounded Penn State 59-39. Most importantly the Marauders were able to keep possessions alive by grabbing 13 offensive rebounds which led to 11 second chance points.
Millersville also proved it would not have to rely on Reggie Bates for their offense. The team received double digits from four players and every individual that played scored at least two points.
The Marauders were able to control the game thanks their tough man-to-man defense. Stibbins controlled the paint with his six blocks by Millersville also recorded eight steals and forced a total of 13 turnovers. The Marauders held Penn State to a paltry 28.4 percent shooting from the floor.Although the Marauders certainly learned a lot about their team and its ability to be successful this season it still is only one game into the very young season. The Marauders next two games come against Holy Family and then a matchup at 14th ranked C.W. Post.
“I’m a firm believer in taking things one game at a time, so that’s what we’re going to do,” said Thompson “Hopefully we can rebound and play defense like we did on Saturday throughout the remainder of the season.”
Under a proven coach and with a team that is filled with talent Millersville seems ready to prove themselves worthy to hang with some of the top teams. “The reason we play so many is because these kids can play,” said Thompson.
Thompson and Bates agree that with each game the Marauders will continue to get better. “Each game is a stepping stone,” said Bates. After their performance against Penn State these Marauders appear to have stepped in the right direction.