The Alfred State men's basketball team is ready to continue to build on their impressive 2017-18 campaign this weekend as they travel to Chestnut Hill, MA for the ACAA Tournament. The Pioneers enter the tournament as the #1 seed with a 16-9 overall record.
The Pioneers will take on the hosts and #4 seed Pine Manor College (11-13) on Saturday in the second semifinal. Tip-off is slated for 2 p.m. The Pioneers and Gators have never met but the teams have two common opponents. Both teams battled Maine Presque Isle and SUNY Canton. Alfred State was 3-0 vs. those teams while Pine Manor was 2-2.
The 2017-18 season has been the best for Alfred State since the move to NCAA DIII. The Pioneers have already won seven more games than last year and have the most wins since the 2008-09 season.
Pioneer head coach Jerry Jusianiec is looking forward to the weekend "I'm excited for this year's team to be competing for a conference championship and very proud of how hard we have worked. We have a very special group of young men that have bought into playing as a unit. As a team we do three things very well and they are the backbone of our success this year. We take pride in our team defense, on our rebounding and playing unselfish basketball."
Scouting the Pioneers:
- The Pioneers are averaging 72.9 points per game on the season. They shot 42.9% from the field, 25.4% from three, and 60.8% from the foul line.
- Alexshay Pearce leads the Pioneers balanced scoring attack with a 15.5 points per game while Juwan Toliver is averaging 10.2. Marcus Rhett is averaging 8.9, Dante Jordan 8.8, and Tahaij Lewis 7.9.
- Jordan leads the team with 180 rebounds (7.2 per game) but the Pioneers hold a nearly nine rebound per game advantage over their opponents.
- One of the keys to success this season has been balance. The team has ten players that have been key contributors. Seniors Tyler Elliott and Robbie Adams along with Owen Spencer, Josh Miller-LaBar, and Ben Deming all have been counted on to make plays and play big minutes.
- The Pioneers are 8-6 on the season on the road and finished the season with victories in three of their final four games.
Scouting the Gators:
- The Gators average 74.1 ppg and shoot 42.3% from the field. They hit 31.6% from three and shot 64.2% from the foul line.
- Pine Manor has a quartet of players averaging in double figures. Ellis Reed leads the team with 12.5 ppg while Jamel Hamans averages 12.3, Rasheed Bell 11.8, and Steven Collins 10.6
- Reed leads the team with 7.4 rebounds per game while Collins passes out 3.2 assists per game.
- Pine Manor is 4-7 at home this season and comes in the tournament with three straight victories and winners of four of their last five games.
In the other semifinal, #2 Maine Presque Isle (12-13) will take on #3 Valley Forge (3-16). The winners of each semifinal will meet on Sunday (2/25) at Noon.
Prior to the championship, Juwan Toliver sat down and answered a few questions about the upcoming tournament and the season. Toliver has had an impressive junior year. He has averaged 10.2 points and 5.8 rebounds this season along with passing out 151 assists and picking up 54 steals.
What are your expectations/goals heading into the ACAA tournament? My goals for the ACAA tournament is to win it all and not have the same feeling as last year, it was a long bus ride back home.
What have you been some of the highlights of the season? The whole season is a highlight for us since we are making history but if I had to choose a couple moments it would definetly be Marcus Rhett's game winner at the buzzer at SUNY Canton or the comeback win against Keuka.
What did you learn from last season's postseason experience and what adjustments will you make this time? I learned last postseason that you can't get comfortable when you have a nice lead early in the game. This year I want to make sure we play a full 40 minutes and finish strong so that we come out on top.
What motivates you to be the best player that you can be? My teammates motivate me. I know that everyone of my teammates works hard and I never want to let them down and not do the same for them in return.
With being a leader of this team how do you motivate your teammates? I motivate my teammates by keeping a positive attitude through everything and I never let them see me with bad energy because I know that everyone feeds off of my energy since I am a leader on the team.