Men’s basketball picks up momentum after disappointing start to season

By Mark Dourmashkin ’14, Staff Writer

After starting the season 2-4, the men’s basketball team have won eight straight games and improved to 10-4, 6-1 Centennial Conference (CC). The Diplomats last loss came in 2013 when St. Mary’s defeated them on Nov. 30. Since the calendar turned to December, the Diplomats have not lost. They are averaging nearly 20 more points per game during their current eight-game win streak than in their first seven games.

The Diplomats have certainly moved past their early season struggles and are now poised to make a serious run to win the CC championship.

The scoring attack has been led by seniors Jon Salandra ’14 and Matt Porter ’14. Porter is coming off a season where he was named to the Second Team All-Conference and is looking to lead the team to a CC Championship. He is averaging 14.2 points per game and had his highest scoring game of the season, 26 points, during F&M’s double overtime win against Albright College. Salandra leads the team in scoring with 14.9 points per game and has recorded three double-doubles this season. Junior point guard, Terrel Phelps ’15 has been playing his best basketball of late, averaging 16.2 points per game during his last six games.

During the Diplomats first seven games they averaged 55 points per game, as opposed to averaging 75 points during their eight-game win streak. Salandra insisted that the Diplomats began to play like a team during their eight game win streak.

“Our guys are really stepping up and every single player on our team now is contributing in some way or another whether it be defense, rebounding, scoring, etc,” he said, “One of the neat things about our team is that we almost always have a different leading scorer every game, which makes us very difficult to defend.”

This was true during the Diplomats’ last away game against Muhlenberg College when guard Morgan Lee ’15 dropped a season high 19 points to help lead the Diplomats to their eighth straight victory.

Forward Cedric Moure ’16 has shown that he has become a dominant force this season as he is averaging a double-double per game (10.1 points per game and 10.2 rebounds per game). Both starting forwards, Salandra and Moure, shoot above 50 percent from the field and make it difficult for opposing players to score close to the basket.

The consistent play of Moure and Salandra has solidified the Diplomats’ frontcourt as one of the top in the CC. Guards, Kaleb Faison ’16 and Devin Figueroa ’16 have stepped up for the Diplomats during this current eight-game winning streak. Both guards are providing strong minutes off the bench for Coach Robinson and have shown they can hit the three-pointer when their number is called.

After winning the Sponaugle New Year’s Tournament, the Diplomats displayed their best defensive effort of the season, holding fellow conference foe, Swarthmore College, to a season-low 39 points.Robinson deserves credit for rallying his troops and making adjustments following a poor start to the season.

“[Coach Robinson’s] has the persistence and desire to make you the best basketball player you can be. I know personally that I have grown as a basketball player immensely in my four years that I have been in this basketball program,” Salandra said.

Since 1971, Robinson has created a culture of winning within F&M’s basketball program and now stands 37 wins short of 900.

The Diplomats have a crucial three-game home stand approaching against three conference rivals. F&M (6-1) currently ranks second in the conference behind Dickinson College (7-0), but that could very well change after the two teams  square off on Wednesday, Jan. 22 at 8:00 p.m. The Diplomats will first try to extend their winning streak against McDaniel College on Saturday.

Senior Mark Dourmashkin is a staff writer. His email is mdourmas@fandm.edu.

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