The 2019 men’s basketball season has come and gone, and the ups and downs come into play at the beginning of the season when head coach Ian Grady became the acting head coach. The team started off rough, but turned things around, they went on a 12-game winning streak and came up just short of a playoff win.
All the way back in November, The Rock started off losing their first two games in the Joe Retton classic, this was just a week after former head coach Kevin Reynolds was placed on administrative leave. The team was still trying to find themselves, find how to play together and close out and win games. They never gave up though, they grabbed their first win against Carlow University 108-70 and thing slowly started turning around.
“I think means a lot to me and the team and everybody individual that was in the locker room,” Grady said. “There was highs and lows throughout the entire season but never quitting, never giving up shows a lot about who the team was.”
The Rock began Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) play and things started to get rolling. SRU defeated West Chester University 78-64 to grab their first PSAC win of the season. However, nobody knew how much that game meant to them, because they then moved on to win 11 more in a row, including a double overtime win against Mercyhurst University 92-91 and a huge upset against third ranked Indiana University 74-69.
“We went on that 12-game win streak and I’m pretty sure nobody was really expecting that from us,” senior guard John Warren II said.
The winning streak ended after a tough loss to Gannon University. The Rock would bounce back in the win column three days later with a 20-point victory over Cal U as they clinched a playoff berth, they were 15-6 overall and 12-2 in the PSAC, but up next was IUP.
The Rock had earlier upset the Crimson Hawks earlier in the season during their winning streak, and with redshirt junior Micah Till dominating against them last time with 25 points and 11 rebounds for a double-double the Slippery Rock was looking for a huge upset on the road. That is where things changed however, Till was injured in the first half and would not return for the second. He played in less than 20 minutes and was the lead scorer for SRU with 10 points. Till would not get to return to the court the rest of the season. So, it was a next man up mentality and that’s what the team did.
After the loss of Till and the lost to IUP the team stuck together and went 4-2 to finish out the season. After defeating Mercyhurst earlier in the year by one in double overtime, the men completed the regular season sweep as Nolen Gerald had a career high 24 point game, including six assists, four rebounds and two steals. Gerald was also 11-of-15 shooting on the night. Then men won by nine 83-74 and separated themselves and Mercyhurst by two and halve games in the PSAC playoff race.
After a narrow win against Clarion University, The Rock just needed one more win out of their next three games to lock up a first-round bye and a PSAC home playoff game. That would come against Edinboro University as The Rock fought all night long and snuck away with an 81-79-point victory.
After two straight losses to close out the regular season, The Rock would prepare for their third and final match-up against Mercyhurst University who they swept the regular season series from. The team could just not find its shooting rhythm in the first half, as they shot just 33.3 percent. They were still in the game though, going into half only down five. Thing started turning around and going Slippery Rock’s way as their shooting percentage went up to 44.1 percent. However, Mercyhurst was not backing down, after allowing an SRU from taking the lead Trystan Pratapas made five straight shots, four of which were from behind the arc. This was the final punch that brought the men’s season to an end as they lost 73-68. As the season came to an end, looking back on it as a whole coach Grady had a lot to be proud of.
“The 12-game win streak stands out, national team of the week, beating IUP, beating Mercyhurst twice,” Grady said. “So, I think there’s a few different things throughout the course of the season that our guys should be proud of.”
Looking into the offseason it will be no easy task for Grady as he will be losing five seniors.
“The five seniors won’t be easily replaced, that’s for sure. They had a big impact on our team, a big impact on our season. But we do have a lot of returning players too. So, I think we have a good nucleus coming back,” Grady said.
One of those senior, John Warren II only played his senior season here at The Rock. In Warren II short stint he averages 13 points, four rebounds, three assist and two steal per game. He shot 41.6 percent from the floor, including 36 percent from behind the 3-point line. Warren II also joined the 1,000 points club as that was a huge honor for him.
“That was a big goal for me, a big milestone, it meant a lot for me. It’s always good to hit goals and milestones during you career,” Warren II said. As we put the 18-19 season behind us, we can get a preview of what the 19-20 season is going look like.
“I think we are going to be a close group again; we’ll play a fun product of basketball that people will enjoy watching. We like to play faster and I’m excited,” Grady said.
The team will look to pick up where it left off this season with all their new recruits, with getting back to the playoffs in their minds.