Entering the KCAC postseason basketball tournament as the No. 4 seed and advancing to Monday’s championship could be viewed as a high point of Southwestern’s season.
But it’s too soon to know, because the Moundbuilders are still in the middle of one.
Their eight-game winning streak has included two wins over regular-season champion Tabor, including in Saturday’s semifinals. It has also included several strong performances from sophomore guard Cameron Hunt and junior forward DJ Wallace.
Southwestern (23-9) meets York (Neb.) College at Hartman Arena on Monday, and the winner advances to the NAIA Division II Tournament next month in Point Lookout, Mo.
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“We work hard, we all trust each other,” Southwestern freshman Barrington Hunter said. “We’ve got two star players that just put up a lot for us. We play defense, that’s what we focus on when we practice hard.”
Many of Southwestern’s recent games haven’t been decided by its defense, as the Moundbuilders have topped 85 points in half of their eight wins since Jan. 12. Southwestern’s only loss of 2017 was a 104-103 defeat by Saint Mary in double overtime.
Leading those efforts have most frequently been Wallace and Hunt, a guard who averaged six points as a freshman before becoming Southwestern’s most important player this season.
Wallace has scored in double figures in every game during the winning streak, which Southwestern started with a win over Bethel when he scored 36, and averaged 20.3 points.
Hunt has averaged 24.8 points in the last eight games and re-established himself as Southwestern’s most indispensable player after missing time due to injury earlier this season.
“We just have a chip on our shoulder,” Hunt said. “We were picked preseason eighth (in the conference) and it’s all coming together at the end. All we did was work and work.”
Southwestern covers all bases offensively with shooters Hunt and Jacob Horsch, who made a tiebreaking three-pointer late in Saturday’s win at Tabor. Wallace anchors the inside along with Brent Smith, who made all seven of his shots on Saturday.
“I think it’s chemistry more than anything,” Horsch said. “We all trust each other, we all love each other. Off the court, we (support) one another. That definitely carries onto the court, for sure.”
- Monday, at Hartman Arena
- Men: Southwestern vs. York, 6 p.m.
- Women: Tabor vs. Friends, 8 p.m.