A one-on-one interview with Coach Randy Bennett
Photo c/o AP Photo/John Minchillo
By Val Hill
Being West Coast Conference regular-season co-champions set the tone for the NCAA tournament for the Gaels. To participate again in the NCAA tournament is a tremendous accomplishment. Only those at large teams can compete, with only 64 teams eligible for the tournament.
“It’s just an amazing recognition for the great season we had, and being able to go back two years in a row. And being able to be recognized for having this season, and all those little accomplishments,” Head Coach for the Gaels, Randy Bennett, explained.“When the fear and anxiety hit, underneath is a sense of worth and accomplishment. Approaching things one step at a time and improving has been the Gael's strategy since day one. You have to approach things one at a time, coaches can say anything they want. But it’s about improving over time.”
However, tournament games are not as simple as in the regular season, with every game being fought tooth and nail. Even a one-seed going up against a sixteen-seed will not be an easy game. Despite that, Bennett says, “ It comes down to who is playing that game well, that's what it all comes down to.” For the Gaels, being the fifth seed was not seen as an obstacle in their path to victory against VCU.
For the Gaels, many working parts allowed the team to thrive, but the one that stood out the most was senior guard Logan Johnson. The fearless leader both on and off the court, he was a key asset for the success of the Gaels.
Bennett said of Johnson, “He had the biggest jump from starting this year, coming back from having shoulder surgery last year. Not being able to play much last summer was a setback.” Logan was the top scorer for the Gaels in almost every game in the regular season. He set the bar for the level of leadership allowing others as expected which includes seniors Alex Ducas and Kyle Bowen. Of the three, Bennett explained, “They have taught these younger players what it looks like. So they have left them in a position where they can be the next leaders. That’s the goal and the challenge that I gave them. And I think that they have truly embraced it.”
These seniors have embraced being the leaders and handed the reins to the younger players. Players like freshman Aiden Mahaney have started becoming the leader the team can rely on. Even though he is merely a freshman just now walking into this collegiate basketball world, he has stepped up. Coach Bennett talked about how he is more of a behind-the-scenes leader. “So being a freshman, you have to lead by example, because you’re already taking in so much as a freshman, on top of that you’re playing guys who are 23 to 24 years old. So he will become one of our key leaders.”
The Gaels had an incredible season, showing the college basketball world that Saint Mary’s is still a top competitor. Coach Randy Bennett has created a team that is a force to be reckoned with.
The United States fails to reclaim the title.
Image c/o Getty images
By Madison Sciba
Associate Editor/Visiting Sports Reporter
It was the bottom of the ninth inning of the final game in Miami. World Baseball Classic 2017 Champions were on their home turf hoping to defend their title against two-time champion Japan. Both countries, known for their love and dedication to baseball, hosting this year's events and hoping to take home the title. LoanDepot stadium was filled with chants, “USA, USA!” booming from the stands, American fans eager for another win while Japan is hoping to bring home a title for the first time since 2009. The whole stadium on edge. The only hope for the United States and Japan being Los Angeles Angels teammates Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, respectively. Pitching around 100 mph, Ohtani stood on the mound breathing heavily. Trout at the plate, focused in on the ball about to escape Ohtani’s grasp.
The most watched World Baseball Classic in the event's history ended on March 21,with a win for Japan. Taking place in Miami, Florida, Japan received their third World Baseball Classic title after beating the United States 3-2. The last inning was a nail-biter as LA Angels teammates Shohei Ohtani (Japan) and Mike Trout (USA) faced off. After an impressive double play by Japan that left the United States with two outs in the ninth inning, Ohtani was on the mound as Trout stepped up to the plate. Two balls, one strike. Tension is rising as both men, teammates in what seems to be another life, know that this could win or lose the game for either team. Two balls, two strikes. One country is going to leave victorious, one is going to leave with silver. Three balls, two strikes. It could go either way. Ohtani could throw another ball and walk Trout, something Ohtani did to McNeil just moments before. It was now or never, Ohtani pitches, sending the ball over the plate. Trout swings but misses, ending the game. The Japanese dugout explodes with excitement at winning their third World Baseball Classic.
Gael’s Great At The Free’s But Not Enough To Save The Game
Image c/o Erick Doxey, Inlander.com
By Vivian Hill
This was not an easy game for anyone involved, and the West Coast Conference Championship in Las Vegas did not treat the Gaels well during the final game against Gonzaga. The Gaels were on a roll from the game against BYU, taking a major lead in the second half. However, that was a short lived victory when Gonzaga went in and swept the Gaels away. In the first three minutes of the game the Gaels fought hard, but no points were scored. This game, by far, was the most technically stacked game with Logan Johnson pulling through with the first shot of the game. The team worked as one cohesive unit after Johnson started off strong. The Zags pulled an early lead, which put more pressure on the Gaels for points. However the Gaels were unable to control the tempo and speed of the plays, which started the domino effect that led to the Gael’s demise. This forced the Gaels to work both sides of the court, while freshman Aidan Mahaney had to handle making plays. A natural scorer, he really had to force his way through the Bulldog’s defense.
Freshman Joshua Jefferson made his major appearance, starting with a strong rim attack. With a start of making a name for himself while Mitchell Saxen and Kyle Bowen were struggling. Meanwhile, Mahaney’s need to be aggressive the entire game was delivered, while being surrounded by team veterans. The tempo and speed were not in the Gael’s favor, they were hesitant to shoot, and allowed the Zags to pull away. Also pushing the Gaels into unfavorable rotations, forcing 5 turnovers that made the Gaels struggle for rhythm. Despite all those obstacles, the Gaels were making almost every free throw that was given to them. They took their time on the line and calculated every shot. However, this would not be enough to overcome the lack of toughness, which was quite unusual for the Gaels. Within the first half, the Gaels struggled to keep the plays together, thus further pushing them into taking too much time to shoot.Thus at the end of the first half Gonzaga led the score at 37 points with only 19 points for the Gaels.
The main goal for the Gaels in the second was to lock in and get a better handle on the ball. At 18:08, Bowen brought in a bucket, and got the Gaels moving again. The Zags continued their rundown of closing all windows for the Gaels, making the Gaels struggle moving forward. Breaking in at 15:55 was Jefferson with a big 3 point shot, another attempt to pull the Gaels out of their major funk that had taken over the game. With only 53.2 seconds left on the clock, Johnson secures a basket. He then goes back for more and secures a and secures a 3-pointer-pointer at 34.0, and another basket with 1.3 seconds left. This was not enough to save the Gaels, with the game coming to an end score of 77 for the Gonzaga Bulldogs and 51 points for the Saint Mary’s Gaels.
SMC beats BYU for the 18th time!
Image C/O Tod Fierner/SMC Athletics
By Vivian Hill
Whether you watched from home or on campus at the University Credit Union Pavillion in Moraga, you could feel the energy and the Gael’s fighting spirit throughout the game against Brigham Young University. Starting out,odds were in favor of the Gaels, 91.7% to 8.3%, but BYU did not let this hold them back. Within the first few minutes BYU was out for blood and the Gaels’ Logan Johnson was pushing back, taking the rest of the team with him. This created an issue for the Gaels, since their usual style is playing the slow game. With BYU not giving the team a chance to take control of the speed and tempo, the Gaels defense was seriously impacted. Furthermore, it was clear that this game became extremely physical, and no easy points were left on the table. It was set in stone from the beginning that the star of the first half was none other than number 0, Logan Johnson.
This was Johnson’s major comeback game after the Gonzaga game, and he played with full force. Hecame to fight, bringing his pride to the forefront of the game. Getting every turnover and bringing the rest of the team together, playing at their tempo. As one of the announcers put it “...this is a Johnson and Johnson show.” Johnson made the effort to make this game the game that will change the tempo of the rest of the season. Backing Logan up in the first half was freshman star Aidan Mahaney. Mahaney did not try to force his chances to take a shot, but rather welcomed opportunities as they came. If the first half of this game belonged to Johnson, then the second half was Mahaney’s.
Leading the score at the second half 33 to 27, Mahaney was an unexpected star. He waited till the second half to start scoring some major points. Almost instinctively, the Gaels shifted their plays for Mahaney to get his foot in the door. By the end of the gameMahaney was putting his mark on the game,with Johnson backing him up. With A]an edge being made, Mahaney took every shot he could and led the Gaels to an overwhelming victory of 71 to 65.
Madison Sciba '24,