What a turnaround season for the Wildcats. With the 2014-2015 season now in the rear-view, the ‘Cats can hang their hat on a job well done. They had a heartbreaking finish in Circleville, Ohio, but achieved so much in such a short time together. Let’s take a look at how they got here.
Last year, first under head coach Mike Arnold, the team struggled to find it’s chemistry and identity on the floor. The Wildcats ended with a record of 5 wins, 25 losses. Then, the coaches hit the recruiting trail. Hard. With a full year to recruit, the Wildcats were able to land several impact recruits, including senior Bryce Layne, and juniors Marsellus Gray, Mozeek Waggener, and Miles Waggener. Both coaches agree, this was not completely their doing. God is definitely to thank for a lot of these recruits. God made it possible for these student-athletes to be here.
Then the work began. With chemistry at the forefront of his mind, coach Arnold designed a rigorous and balanced training calendar that included cross-fit, weightlifting, running, playing, drill-work, team dinners, and even a cabin retreat. All this, designed to build the sense of family among the team.
When the season came around, the season hit the Wildcats hard. A schedule of four NCAA Division 2 games and several top ranked NAIA Division 1 teams gave the Wildcats their fair share of adversity. With eight losses in a row from Halloween to Thanksgiving, it was not the start they had anticipated. Regardless, they continued to push. They continued to work. They continued to grind it out, with the vision of league play ahead of them. Once conference games started, all these challenges would pay off.
Pay off it did.
The ‘Cats ended the regular season winners of 9 of their last 11 games, including a perfect 5-0 against conference opponents, claiming the #1 seed for the regional tournament. They found their groove and figured out how to win multiple ways. Last year, they came close but could not find a way to win a single conference game. This year they beat their conference opponents by an average margin of 16 points. They reached as high as #5 in the national rankings, and ended the season at #6.
By going undefeated in conference, the Wildcats earned a first round bye in the regional tournament. This year the tournament was held in Lancaster, CA, home of West Coast Baptist College. In the first game, Multnomah University beat West Coast Baptist College, earning a chance to play the Wildcats. In the fourth meeting of the season, the Wildcats once again held them off, earning a berth into the NCCAA National tournament in Circleville, Ohio.
For their play through the regular season, Bryce Layne and Mozeek Waggener earned themselves All-American status, with Bryce taking first team and Mozeek taking second team.
In Ohio, the Wildcats fought well. Senior Bryce Layne led the team in scoring and assists, with 22.5 points with 6.5 assists, and Marsellus Gray came in at 20 ppg. They lost their first game to #5 Dallas Christian by 3 points 77-74, and the next night to #1 Ohio Christian 75-76, with a chance to win it at the buzzer. Ohio Christian was the two-time defending national champions and #1 ranked team all season.
Although the season didn’t end how the Wildcats hoped, it was a great year for both players and coaches, and a drastic improvement from 5-25 the year before. They accomplished several goals they had set at the beginning of the season, including win the western region, and earned a berth to nationals. Next year they look to improve even more, and win a game or two at nationals.
For more tournament information, including rosters, results, and award winners, visit http://trailblazers.ohiochristian.edu/f/2015_NCCAA_National_Tournament.php