By Roderick Wilbon, Sports Editor

The ups and downs of a sport season can be a great ride or it can be a heartbreaker. It is the tale of two teams on the basketball court this season. The University of Missouri-St. Louis Men’s and Women’s basketball teams wrapped up their regular seasons respectively.

The Men’s basketball season had a lot of promise with a great athletic big team. The season would not be kind to them, though. The team seemed to not have an identity. They were not a three-point shooting team, a hard-nosed defensive team, or a stretch the floor team this basketball season. Overall, the team went 14-13 and 9-9 in the conference. The Tritons were barely a .500 team and it showed on the court.

There were just too many changes and inconsistency on the team that lead to some games that they were winning and blew a lead. This included losing a game by one point when there were two minutes left in the game and they had the lead in the beginning of the game. They were playing aggressive defense in the first quarter and they had a lead on points. They would then come back in the second half very lackadaisical to blow it. They finished a game that the Tritons were winning only to let the opponent send the game to overtime that the opponents dominated.

The men did start to get on a roll late in the season. If they could have won their last game on February 24 against the rival, very beatable, Maryville, the Tritons could have snuck into the Great Lakes Valley Conference Tournament. They, unfortunately, lost 70-79 on the road to Maryville. The Tritons were destroyed on the boards, leading to the difference in the game.

Three players on the team will graduate this year: Elijah Watson, senior, accounting; Steven Davis, senior, exercise management; and D.J. White, senior, physical education. These members were key in assists and three-pointers. How will UMSL fill the gap after their departure? One thing we know is this team will look very different next basketball season.

The Lady Tritons are the team that’s on a roller-coaster ride that never came back down. They succeeded in everything they have wanted almost this basketball season. Whether off the build projects or on the court. They are your Central Division Champions of the GLVC after their win on February 24 against Maryville for the second time. The next phase for them is to take the GLVC Tournament by storm.

The Lady Tritons went 20-5 overall in competition over the regular season and 14-4 in conference play. They end the season on a 13-game winning streak, undefeated at the Mark Twain Athletic and Fitness Center and with a .778 winning percentage. They did this by dictating teams on offense and defense. The Tritons put major pressure on opponent’s guards almost unrelenting. Took teams out of their game and then either killed them in the paint, outside, or both. It did not matter the look the opponent gave UMSL, the Tritons dominated over the opponents.

“We stick to our game plan, our habits and our same principles,” said Head Coach Katie Vaughn. “It leads to the players being instinctual, versus changing it up every night.”

The only concerns this team might have is about Shawnta Johnson, senior, communications,  who has an on and off again nick and knack injuries. She quickly plays through them or sits for one game. “She has non-typical injuries for a basketball player,” said Vaughn. “We know that she’s going to play through them though, because of the senior mentality, this is an athlete’s last shot in college.”

Starting guard Sammie Sproul, senior, business, looks to still be in a shooting slump. She still makes all the other plays though on offense and is still playing great defense. This could come to haunt the team in the tournament when they need one of her quality three-point daggers from deep. “When you are a senior or coming to the end of your career, you tend to second-guess yourself a little,” said Vaughn. “It’s only mental for her she just has to play through this, and get her confidence back.” Vaughn hopes that takes place before the start of the GLVC Tournament.

The ladies also led a successful fundraising campaign for Pediatric cancer. Teaming up with Mercy Hospital and the Mercy Clinic Children’s Cancer and Hematology Center. Which is also known as the Cardinals Kids Cancer Center. Community Relations at Mercy Hospital Katy Hemme and UMSL’s Coordinator of Athletics Marketing & External Relations Dan Brodsky, graduate, business administration, both spearheaded the project.

The team visited the center and talked to a few patients, played games, and encouraged them in their fight. They raised money and sold “Lace Up for Cancer,” wristbands. At their Lace Up for Cancer Game on February 8, the tritons beat a sound Indianapolis team. They raised over a $1,000 for the center and presented the check to a young lady and her family whose cancer was in remission.

When will the ride end? The basketball season roller coaster’s next stop is the National Tournament. The Lady Tritons continue their success on March 1 against the ranked No. 4 in the GLVC Tournament. The Bellarmine Knights will faceoff against the Tritons in the quarterfinals at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville at 8:30 p.m.

Lady Tritons present Check to Cardinal Kids Cancer Center. Photo by Roderick Wilbon/ The Current.