As the seconds ticked down during the men’s basketball team’s last game of the season Feb. 16 against Houghton College, the Bombers held their heads high despite knowing they did not make the playoffs for the second year in a row. A better future lies ahead, carried by a group of young stars.
The team finished eighth in the Empire 8 Conference this season with a 9–16 overall record, including a 5–11 league record. The Bombers had no seniors on the team this year and instead relied on their juniors and strong freshman class to lead them.
“In the last several games, we’ve kind of had to rely on younger kids, and they’ve performed,” head coach Jim Mullins said. “As you do in any sport, you have to ride the hot hand. Over the last five or eight games, the best play has been coming from the younger kids.”
Among the standout players from the freshman class is Riley Thompson, a former All–Bucks County guard, who Mullins said has a strong future on the team.
“In some ways, Riley’s been a surprise, but some ways not,” Mullins said. “My understanding is that of the five guys who were First Team All–Bucks County last year, he was the only one who didn’t go to a Division I school. So we kind of knew coming in, but we thought it would take him longer.”
The Bombers had high expectations coming into this season. At the beginning of the season, junior guard and captain Marc Chasin said that winning the Empire 8 Championship was the goal and that anything less would be a disappointment.
Mullins said there were several problem areas that led to the team’s shortcomings this season.
“I think the biggest things that have hurt us this year have been consistency across the board, our rebounding and our defense,” Mullins said. “Those things have not been good.”
Mullins said there was a lack of productivity from the team’s juniors, namely Chasin, Carroll Rich and Joey Flanagan. All three of them saw significant decreases in their scoring averages and field goal percentages from last season. Chasin saw his scoring average go from 20.8 points per game to 16.6 points per game, Rich decreased from 10.9 points per game to 6.5 points per game, and Flanagan went from 15 to 8.4 points per game.
“Flan, Carroll and Marc have given us really good play over the years,” Mullins said. “For whatever reason, they haven’t been as efficient this year. I kind of think that probably what ends up happening is they try so hard that they tighten up, and the whole thing snowballs. We know what they’re capable of. I’m just hoping that they can recapture it moving into next year.”
Over the last six games of the season, Thompson averaged 20.67 points per game while shooting 50 percent from the 3-point line. In the first 19 games of the season, he averaged only 4.9 points per game. Like all freshmen, Thompson said, he needed some time to adjust to the college game.
“The game is faster, so it takes some time,” Thompson said. “That’s why I started off the season a little slow, but I’ve picked it up as of late. You know, you get adjusted to the game, and lately I’ve come on strong.”
Thompson said he had high hopes for the team this year but is already looking forward to next season for success.
“I expected this team to be a lot better,” Thompson said. “We ended on a strong note, winning three of the last four, so we have to take that into next year. But it was definitely disappointing that we didn’t make the playoffs.”
Because the team has no seniors, the Bombers won’t lose any upperclassmen to graduation before next season. Thompson said he is confident in the team to build on the strong points of this season and get better together.
“We expect to be good,” Thompson said. “Even though the Liberty League is supposedly tougher, with all of these guys back and another offseason to get bigger, stronger, better, work on our game, we expect to come out next year and be a playoff team. Nothing less.”
Next fall, the Bombers will be in the Liberty League, which will be a challenge for them. This season, they played six Liberty League teams and only beat one.
Chasin said he is going to use the offseason as a time to improve.
“We definitely are happy with the group of guys we have,” Chasin said. “We know if we work harder within the offseason and come back better and stronger, we will put ourselves in a good position to have a more successful season next year.”
Staff Writer Max O’Neill contributed reporting to this article.