The men’s basketball team has been heating up at just the right time, said head coach Brennen Shingleton.
After a so-so beginning, the Rams greeted 2018 with eight wins in a row, according to ramsports.net. More recently, the team won three games in six days earlier this month, defeating Southwestern Assemblies of God, Bacone College and John Brown University.
At 20-8 and 13-5 in conference play, the Rams are ranked No. 20 in the NAIA Division I/Coaches’ Poll as they prepare for the season’s final home game on Thursday against Central Christian College.
“Well, we’re getting better at the right time that’s for sure,” Shingleton said several weeks ago. “We knew that we were going to struggle early in the first semester just because we had so many new guys and then also with some injuries and some guys out.”
The team has a lot of good leaders, but they’ve had to overcome several obstacles this season, he said.
“A coach would love to have all of his pieces of the puzzle ready to roll,” Shingleton said, “but other guys step up and make do with that.”
Over winter break the basketball teams were the only people on campus, and it brought the team closer together, Shingleton said.
“I think we’re learning how to win, which is helpful,” Shingleton said. “I think winning hides a lot of demons. I think our leadership is getting better as we speak.”
The team has limited the duration of practices, and they always warm up and stretch before practice, Shingleton said.
The team takes the season on in pieces. They focus on one game at a time.
“Our goal is to go two and 0 every week,” Shingleton said. “We have to really pull them back and say ‘Fellas, there’s nothing more important than Saturday’s game.’ Our goal is to win the next game.”
Even though the team is focusing on one week at a time they’ve still got their eye on another run at the championship, Shingleton said.
“If we can make it to the national tournament everybody’s goal I hope is to go and win the thing, not just participate,” Shingleton said.
The team tries to be selfless in the way they play. When a player is selfish, it’s because they want to win not because they want to make themselves look good, Shingleton said.
“The good thing is we’re in a three-way tie for first place,” he said. “We should just continue to chip away at this thing and see what happens.”
Shingleton said his biggest goal as the coach of this team is to sit back and watch them play.
“I hope they’re humble and have a respect for the game,” he said, “but I want them to play with a little chip on their shoulder and some edge.”
The season had a rocky start because the team had to try to live up to the success of the 2016-2017 Rams, Dare Brazeel said.
“The season has been up and down but we are headed in the right direction,” he said. “Eight and one in 2018; if we keep heading in this direction we will be fine.”
The Lady Rams have struggled this season, going 7-19 overall and 5-13 in conference play in an injury-plagued season.
“The season has been a little bit of a roller coaster ride,” head coach Steve Trachier said. ”It started out we lost, to injury, our all conference post player. We lost her for the season and that put us in a difficult spot but we have a good core of players.”
Injuries are just a part of every sport but it’s still difficult to deal with, Trachier said.
“Any time the players see a leader kind of go down, so to speak, emotionally, it’s a little tough,” he said. “I talked to them about trying to be pragmatic about everything that happens and not fall into the trap of emotional highs and emotional lows.”
The team comes to every practice and every game ready to play no matter what the odds, he said.
“The one thing I like about this group, they compete, no matter what the odds, they compete. As long as you’re willing to go into every game and fight that battle you’ll be okay,” he said.
It’s more fun to win than lose but sometimes the team gets dealt a bad hand and they have to fight through it, he said.
“Overall, I really like the players that we have,” he said. “I think we have a good core to build on for the future.”
Trachier said he missed coaching and the lifetime relationships it allows him to build.
“It’s amazing. Basketball is basketball,” he said. “There’s nothing new. When I started coaching I recognized everything that’s going on. Basketball is all about execution. It’s interesting as much as things change things stay the same. It’s been a pretty easy transition.”
Trachier said he is loving coaching and could see himself doing it for a while.
“The kids on my team are just really, really good kids,” he said. “They are fun to work with and fun to be around. I’m really enjoying it.”
The season has been hard on the team, but they have tried to pitch in when a teammate is out, Whorley said. The team and Trachier create a positive uplifting environment at every game and practice.
“They’re all like big sisters to me, and I love every single one of them,” she said.
The Rams play Central Christian College at 8 p.m. on Thursday; the Lady Rams play CCC at 6 p.m. For more information go to ramsports.net.