DWC men’s basketball team sets high goal for final season

Just how good can the Daniel Webster College men’s basketball team be in its final season?

“I think they’re good enough where they can compete to get into the NCAA tournament,” Eagles coach Donald Morris, Jr. said. “If they stay together, do the right things. They stay on the right path, they all want the same goal. I’m not too worried about it, what’s going to happen later on. Just worried about the moment.”

So far the Eagles have enjoyed the moment, off to a 4-1 start, one of the best they’ve ever had.

“It’s our last year, let’s make it worth it,” said Nashua’s Ray Farmer, a senior who is averaging 8.6 points a game and doing a lot of the dirty work inside while being a vocal leader on the floor. “It’s our last time, our last go here; we want to put a championship banner up here before it goes down.”

Farmer’s heart broke when he heard the news that the school would close; he’ll finish out his degree with a couple of courses next year at Southern New Hampshire University.

“It’s killing me, I’ve been here for a long time,” he said. “I’ve been through a lot of coaching changes, I love this place. It really hurts to see it go down like it is.”

Farmer says this is, talent-wise, “one of the better teams we’ve had.” This past weekend the Eagles beat old nemesis Regis, 88-71, perhaps to send a message to the rest of the NECC.

“Sometimes we get up a little bit more for the conference games,” Morris, Jr. said. “The big games are kind of built for us to figure out how we’re going with our rotation, that kind of thing.”

Morris, Jr. often substitutes five for five, and as a result he has 11 players with scoring averages, led by Marquise Caudill with 12.6 points a game and Jared Harrington at 11.4. “You’ve got to get the guys to buy into that,” he said. “It’s not about how much you’re scoring. If you go out and give maximum effort when you’re in the games, you’ll see results.”

To get his players to buy in, Morris, Jr. needs extensions of him on the floor. He has that in Farmer.

“He always gives you good leadership, all the time,” the coach said. “He’s the guy who is telling everyone we didn’t get it (done) last year, and this is our last year so let’s do it this year.”

Farmer has been around for awhile and says it’s natural for him to be a leader, and “We execute better than we ever have before.”

The fact that it’s the Eagles’ final season ever could be a factor.

“Sometimes it gets hard, because at any point in time, someone gets discouraged about how things are going, they could be like, ‘You know what, I don’t think I want to play,’” Morris, Jr. said. “So we tell them ‘You’re doing things for a bigger purpose, you win here, it will be easier to go somewhere else (next year), because people want kids who know how to win. That’s the way it is in life; you want people to work for you who know how to win.”

What do the Eagles do well on the floor?

“They do a lot of things,” the DWC coach said. “They’re very good on the interior offense, interior defense. But they’re good at surveying the game and seeing where the mismatch is to take advantage of. That’s very hard to do, because you have to be very unselfish to do it.”

Morris, Jr. has always gone with the theory that there’s strength in numbers. He has 20 players, “and if we didn’t have all 20 contributing, we wouldn’t be able to get the success we’re capable of having.”

Last year, the Eagles, he said, “had some of the pieces. But as time goes on, we have to fill in the spots where the pieces are needed collectively. We don’t want to be a team with one star, we want to be a team that has 10 guys playing very well.”

The Eagles best shooter is Angelo Adon, who right now is at 38.5 percent from 3-point land. “He shoots lights out,” Morris, Jr. said. “Last year he was 15th in the country in made 3’s. He’s very accepting; it’s ‘Coach, whatever you need me to do, I’ll do it.’”

The style the Eagles play is to try to control the tempo. They were down a point early in the half vs. Regis, but Morris, Jr. tried to convince his players that controlling the game would mean it would be a lower score. It worked, as the Eagles eventually pulled away. “If we can control the game, and play better defense, we can win 80-60,” he said. “You’re still winning by 20, but you’re playing better defense.”

The Eagles’ chief competiton in the NECC should be Southern Vermont, which Regis had beaten before bowing to DWC. The Eagles visit SVU on Jan. 12 and then host them in the regular season finale on Feb. 18.

“We want to win every game we can,” Morris, Jr. said. “We want to be the best team we can, and when all the chips fall where they may, we can get a good seeding. A better seeding will help us advance in the conference tournament.

“It’s wide open. As long as we stay with the same mentality, our destiny is in our own hands.”

To make history? The Eagles have never been to the NECC title game.

“We’ve seen our soccer team do it,we’ve seen our girls team (five year ago) get to the championship,” Morris, Jr. said. “It’s about getting us to that point so we can experience it. You don’t get to play this game for a long time. And I always tell guys, the things you really remember are the moments you have with your teams.”

Powerful foe

The Eagles’ lone loss this year came at the hands of Pine Manor in Boston, 75-69. Was it an upset? Well, not if you consider what Gators did to Rivier University on Monday night.

Pine Manor left the Muldoon Center with a 110-61 blistering of the Raiders (1-7), and are 6-3 overall on the season. It was the second time the Gators had eclipsed the 100-point mark in three games. Led by sophomore Ellis Reid (18 points), all five starters finished in double digits.

Riv is struggling out of the gate, and a lot has to do with its shooting. The Raiders, who were led by freshman Keith Poitier’s 11 points, shot just 29.2 percent from the floor.

Riv and DWC have another common non-conference opponent this week. The Eagles visit Dean College in Franklin, Mass.on Thursday while the Raiders host Dean on Saturday afternoon.