by Beth Moller
Sports Editor 

‘We kept improving as the year went along, starting 2-9 and finishing by losing is a hard-fought game in the conference tournament championship…’ -Tim Grosz

The University of Northwestern – St. Paul men’s basketball team saw their season come to an end with a loss at Bethany Lutheran College in the UMAC Championship game. With the loss, the Eagles ended their season with a 14-13 overall record and an 11-5 record in conference play. While the team struggled in early games, they fought through losing all five 2016-2017 starters to come back and challenge Bethany Lutheran for the UMAC title. “[We have a] close group of guys with great team chemistry,” explained head coach Tim Grosz.  “We kept improving as the year went along, starting 2-9 and finishing by losing a hard-fought game in the conference tournament championship after a big win at St. Scholastica in the conference tournament semifinal.”

Despite not winning the conference title, the Eagles were still recognized with several awards throughout the season. Tanner Youngberg was named the UMAC Player of the Week twice. Caleb Hageman was recognized with the honor once in addition to being named the NCCAA Player of the Week for an outstanding week of play in January. For the end of season UMAC awards, several key members of the team were named to All-Conference teams. Youngberg was named to the All-Conference second team, and Isaiah Rahier and Hageman were honorable mentions. In addition, Rahier was named to the All-Defensive team, and Hageman was Northwestern’s winner of the individual sportsmanship award. Northwestern took home the UMAC team sportsmanship award as well.

As the team integrated the new starters, the players stepped up into their new roles. Grosz explained, “We have a system that we have used the last 18 years that has worked well for us, so we stuck with that system with a few minor adjustments and plugged in the new starters. Guys responded well to the new roles they had to embrace.” The team will have many of those key players return to build off their success for next season. “We have a strong junior/senior class for next year,” Grosz added.

In addition to an offseason training program, there are ways that the team can continue to work on their skills as well as strengthen team bonds. Some of the athletes will have the opportunity to help at UNW basketball camps this summer. After the 2019 season, the men’s basketball team is also planning a missions trip. Grosz said, “We plan on taking a missions trip to Spain as a team in May of 2019 after graduation.” During the season, the team grew together through various ways. “Small group Bible studies within the group as well as team devotions really helped our team grow this year,” Grosz added.

With the end of the season, the men’s basketball team will say goodbye to two seniors: Isaiah Rahier and Josh Bagley. As the team looks to next year and hopes to build off the second half of their season, there are several ways players will prepare themselves physically. “We give the guys a strength and conditioning program and a skills program, and they will be playing open gym. They will also participate in a summer basketball league,” said Grosz. As the winningest coach in UNW men’s basketball history, the Eagles will look to Grosz to lead them into next season.

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