- MEN'S SPORTS
- WOMEN'S SPORTS
- INSIDE ATHLETICS
- LIVE STATS
ST. LOUIS – In two seasons, head coach Matt Brock has fought to bring a different kind of culture back to the hardwood at Missouri Baptist: winning. After last season's remarkable turnaround, the Spartans posted another winning season in 2016-17 to prove they're here to stay among the conference's best.
MBU finished the season 17-15 overall and eighth in the American Midwest Conference (AMC). This gave the Spartans their second consecutive trip to postseason play.
"Our guys really fought hard all season long," Brock said. "We had a lot of adversity in the first semester and this group never quit. I was proud of our energy and discipline all year."
Through the season of ups and downs, MBU managed to play some its best ball right towards the end. They drubbed a Williams Baptist team fresh off a top-three win, 107-68, in the second to last regular season game.
Once the postseason rolled around, the Spartans were peaking at just the right time. They drew the NAIA's No. 6 team Columbia College in the first round and handed CC just its fifth loss of the season. The Spartans held on to win 78-73 in a total team effort. 11 different players took the court and five reached double-figures.
When asked what he'll remember most about the season, Brock mentioned this exact game.
"The AMC tournament win at Columbia was a highlight," he said. "How much these guys appreciated and cared for each other was something we hope to continue in our program."
The William Woods Owls put an end to the Spartans season two days later, but not after MBU gave the Owls all they could handle. The Spartans trailed by just three points with 1:18 remaining before WWU edged the navy and white 73-67.
Senior Jared White led the team with 15 points that game and was part of a four-man senior class that left a huge mark on the program both on and off the court. White, Chris Buzzell, Will Harrington and David Gabrovsek accounted for 47.5 percent of the Spartans scoring this season and combined to make 116 starts (of a possible 128).
"This senior class has left a lasting legacy for our program," Brock said. "Not only have we had a great turnaround, but we have established a winning culture that will continue to build and grow both on and off the court."
White led the Spartans with an average of 13.4 points per game. He earned Second Team All-Conference honors after leading the Spartans in scoring eight different times. He also grabbed 4.5 rebounds per game. Buzzell was named Honorable Mention All-Conference. The four-year senior capped his career with 1,556 points good for fifth in school history. He averaged 10.2 points and shot a career-best 48.2 percent.
Harrington leaves Missouri Baptist as its all-time assist leader. He recorded 367 dimes in his two years for an average of 5.8 per contest. The lefty averaged 7.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and also led the team with 36 steals. Gabrovsek finished fourth on the team with a 10.1 points per game average. He also started all 32 games and hauled down 4.4 boards.
Despite the team's 10-12 mark in AMC play after going 14-8 last season, the Spartans improved statistically on both ends of the floor. MBU allowed 70.8 points per game in conference play, down from a 72.9 mark last season. Overall, this year's group also averaged 81.1 points per contest in comparison to scoring 79.7 points per game in 15-16.
Limiting turnovers helped the Spartans increase their scoring output. MBU committed just 394 this season after turning the ball over 486 times last year in one fewer game.
A reason for the better numbers despite the slight decrease in wins is this: 11 of the Spartans 15 losses were by single digits. That includes a six-point loss to No. 2 William Penn. MBU will aim to get over to the victory side of those close games next year.
Returning guys that will help in doing so include Pablo Hernandez and Luke Call. Hernandez missed the team's first 17 games before playing in the final 15. The sophomore from Spain averaged 11.1 points over that span while shooting 55 percent from the field, including a 45.5 percent clip from 3-point range. Call finished the season with 85 3-pointers to rank 11th in the NAIA. He averaged 9.8 points and made 42.5 percent of his threes.
JUCO transfers Johnny Benson and Andrew Howard also made huge impacts this season. Benson became a staple in the starting lineup and averaged 9.6 points and a team-high 6.1 rebounds. Howard also made his biggest impact defensively, grabbing 4.6 rebounds per game in just over 17 minutes.
Freshmen Jahmouri Robinson and James McKelvin also showed flashes toward the future. Both guards played in all 32 games and averaged just over four points per contest.
Eight Spartans were named to the Academic All-Conference team: Grant Bishop, Chris Buzzell, Luke Call, Luke Finley, David Gabrovsek, Will Harrington, Pablo Hernandez and Jake Terry. Harrington was also MBU's representative on the Champions of Character Team.
The Spartans will look to build off the winning foundation set with more success in 2017-2018.