Video by Sam Masterson
The college careers of five seniors are extended to at least one more game.
The Webster University men’s basketball team enters postseason play seeded No. 4 in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship tournament. Senior guards Cody Bradfisch and Jurgen Rama and senior forward Derrell Lee take on their fourth postseason as Gorloks. In 2010-2011, their sophomore years, they earned their only SLIAC tournament championship.
Bradfisch, who scored 11 points in that championship game, believes those experiences will help him on his final SLIAC championship opportunity.
“I’m 100 percent going to give it my all and try to leave it all out there,” Bradfisch said. “Our whole goal is to just get there, and now we’re there. Let’s just play the game and see what happens.”
Between the seniors and Webster coach Chris Bunch, the final games are something that is realized, but not spoken of. Bunch believes acknowledging the seniors’ last year will only add pressure.
“It’s just like telepathy,” said senior forward Roman Robinson. “We just all know it and are happy for each other. We accept that these are our last games and we just have to play as hard as we can.”
For Robinson and teammate senior guard Dietrick Sooter, guard, this is their second season with Webster. Robinson was second on the team in points, blocks and rebounds last season. This year, he is still second in scoring and rebounds but now is a leader in minutes played and blocks.
He said it will be tough for Webster going into the playoffs after its final game of the season was an 89-67 win against the 0-25 Principia College (Ill.) Panthers on Monday, Feb. 18 at Grant Gymnasium.
“You can kind of say in your head that you can just relax,” Robinson said. “Coach yelled at us and said, ‘No matter who they are, we have to go hard because we’re preparing for a bigger battle.’”
To make sure the entire team was ready to take a high level of play into the SLIAC tournament, Bradfisch said the seniors led a team meeting on Friday, Feb. 15.
“We really got after it and we talked as a team,” Bradfisch said. “We just asked everyone, ‘Who is ready for the tournament and wants to go down there and win it?’ Every guy raised their hand.”
The Gorloks look for redemption this season in the SLIAC tournament after last season’s upset. Last year, Webster held the No. 1 seed and still fell to the No. 4 MacMurray College (Ill.), a team the Gorloks beat twice during that regular season.
Webster will be in the opposite situation this time as the No. 4 playing against the top-seeded Spalding University (Ky.), who has beaten them twice this year.
“I don’t see why (a No. 4 beating No. 1) can’t happen to us,” Bradfisch said. “There’s not pressure on us because no one picked us to be here.”
Webster was picked to finish fifth in conference in the SLIAC preseason coaches’ poll.
Before an 84-55 win over the Blackburn College (Ill.) Beavers on Saturday, Feb. 16 in Carlinville, Ill., the Gorloks’ season almost ended after playing Fontbonne University (Mo.) on Wednesday, Feb. 13 in Clayton, Mo.
In the final seconds of a tied game, Webster sophomore guard Ahmad Smith missed a shot from 3-point range. The rebound fell to Fontbonne guard Darius Rucker — and instead of a final buzzer a whistle was blown for a foul on Robinson.
The call sent Rucker to line with one second left in a tied game. If Rucker had made the basket, the Gorloks’ playoff chances would have disappeared.
Robinson said he knew the freshman was going to miss.
“I’m a keen watcher to body language,” Robinson said. “I saw his shaking and he kept looking left and right. I said, ‘He is going to miss it,’ because when I see people at the end of the game I can see focus and a calm face, but he was just shaking.”
In overtime, the game almost got away from Webster as the Gorloks fell behind by 3 points. A 3-point play from Bradfisch tied the game and propelled the Gorloks to the 84-80 win.
Webster’s next game will be the semifinal round of the SLIAC championship tournament against Spalding on Friday, Feb. 22 at 7 p.m. in Louisville, Ky.