The men’s basketball team made history Saturday, winning the Sooner Athletic Conference for the first time since joining three years ago, and head coach Brennen Shingleton said the victory shows that the Rams have come a long way in a short time.
“The Sooner Athletic Conference is one of the most prestigious and top-heavy conferences in the NAIA and it’s very difficult to win in this conference,” Shingleton said Tuesday. “Honestly we just take it day by day and practice by practice. The guys have really done a fantastic job of managing themselves both on and off the court.”
The 78-66 road win against Southwestern Assemblies of God University was the Rams’ 13th victory in a row and finds them going into their final home game on Thursday against Oklahoma City University with an overall record of 23-4 and a 14-2 conference record.
The evening is Faculty/Staff Appreciation Night and Senior Night, and both Rams and Lady Rams seniors will be honored, according to ramsports.net.
“We just wanted to play competitive games and win,” Shingleton said of the team’s season, which ends Saturday with a game against Wayland Baptist University. “We really want to see how far we can go this season, because in my opinion we haven’t played our best basketball yet.”
Behind the leadership of six seniors and many contributions of the younger players, the Rams are in a prime position to capture its second NAIA national championship in a decade, Shingleton said. The Rams captured their first NAIA crown in 2006 with a 67-65 win over OCU.
“This year the leadership has been better, and the team has improved at all levels,” Shingleton said.
During the offseason the players focused on their individual games and once the fall semester started the team started working together, Shingleton said.
“The long offseason is meant mainly for the guys to refine their skills and play and manage themselves effectively,” Shingleton said.
The team’s ultimate goal is to win a second NAIA championship, and Shingleton believes his team has a great chance.
“If we continue to do what we have done so far this season, we have a great chance of winning the whole thing,” Shingleton said.
Senior center Henry Buckley said that the team’s chemistry has improved this season due to the personalities of the team members.
“I feel like our chemistry is close and we look out for each other and help our teammates,” Buckley said.
Senior guard Chris Gracela said that the team has built a bond of friendship and all members get along well.
“We always hang out with each other off the court and we know how to mesh with the different personalities on the team,” Gracela said.
The Rams and Lady Rams play Oklahoma City University on Thursday at the Sid Richardson Center. The Lady Rams will play at 6 p.m. and the Rams will play at 8 p.m. A free barbecue dinner for Wesleyan faculty and staff will be held in SUB from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Admission is free.