Lions clinch conference tourney spot

Junior forward Moses Greenwood looks to knock down a jump shot against the University of New Orleans. He had 11 points for the game. Nikisun Shrestha/The Lion's Roar 

The Lions basketball team secured their spot in the Southland Conference tournament with their fifth straight victory in the Alumni Reunion game.

The first game last week on Feb. 14 resulted in a 71-64 victory for the Lions against University of New Orleans. Head Coach Jay Ladner described his team’s effort during the game.

“It was a tale of two halves,” said Ladner. “The game was real choppy. We got off to a great start, and thank God we did. We built such a good lead, and we knew they would come back. It’s happened to us a couple of times, and we have got to learn from it. We build a good lead, and we don’t do a great job of playing with that lead. We seem to be worried about what the score is and protecting the lead. We really dominated the glass in the first half, but in the second half, it was the exact opposite.”

The win kept the Lions in the hunt for a conference tournament spot and was their fourth consecutive victory.

“It was a typical Southeastern-UNO basketball game,” said Ladner. “I wish we could have finished it in a better way, but the bottom line is they are a good basketball team, and it was a good win for our program. I’m proud of that, and we now have to get ready for a quick turnaround against another good team on Saturday.”

On Saturday, Feb. 17, the team clinched their berth into the conference tournament with a 68-54 win against Abilene Christian University. Ladner was impressed by the team’s focus and preparation going into the game.

“I thought we had methodical team preparation,” said Ladner. “We had just come off a really hard-fought and emotional game against UNO. The team came back the very next day, and I really liked their approach. I was really proud of our team’s effort and methodical preparation. We put in a lot of time being self-critical of ourselves in a constructive way, and I thought we had evidence of it carry over on to the floor. I thought, overall, it was a good win for us. We were able to get all our guys in the game. That’s always important to me, and they got some significant minutes as we build down the stretch.”

During the first half, junior forward Moses Greenwood got injured as an opposition play landed on his back. Ladner said the initial signs are positive about his injury.

“Obviously, a little concerned about Moses Greenwood,” said Ladner. “The initial evaluation from our training staff, our medical staff is positive. It doesn’t look like there’s anything serious. So, the bye is gonna come at a very good time.”

The game against ACU was also the Alumni Reunion game. Louisiana State Representative for District 7 Larry Bagley, SLU Hall of Famers Wayne Booker, Glen Bowman and Steve Grigas along with Lee Carney, Duane Donald, Doc Goodwin, Dean Hughes, Bo Bo McNair, Onochie Ochie, Dan Pieper, Dennis Roussel, Pat Strange, John Watson, Mike Wolf, Booker Young and coach Ken Fortenberry were present at the game.

Bagley gave his thoughts on coming to the university game and on how the team is currently playing.

“It’s great,” said Bagley. “They have done a great job pushing the program. I’m still a member of the Lions club. So, I enjoy coming in here and seeing the guys I’ve played with and against. It’s kinda like a homecoming. I know they’re playing really hard. They’ve got some good kids that are fast and aggressive. They’re doing a great job defensively. They shoot the ball well. I know they’re well coached by the way they’re running their thing. I’m excited about them going to the tournament and maybe see them on the television.”

Ladner was pleased to see the presence of the alumni during the game and talked about their role in building the program.

“We were really excited,” said Ladner. “We’re trying to build a tradition here to incorporate every former coach, former player. That’s where building a tradition has to start. It’s got to start with the people in your program. It’s a lot easier to do that when you’re winning. People want to associate with that.”

Ladner also spoke about his long-term vision for the program.

“I’m happy that we did, but I think our program has passed the point of being happy with making it to the conference tournament,” said Ladner. “As our program is growing, it’s no longer OK just to make it to the conference tournament. Our goal here is to try to build a national power in basketball right here in Hammond.”

The Lions have three games remaining in the regular season. Senior forward Jordan Capps explained how the team’s approach is going to be for rest of the games.

“Just continue to take the games one by one,” said Capps. “You cannot overlook anybody ’cause, you never know, they could come out firing. They can beat you one night you’re not on your toes. So, you have to be on your toes every night.”