Penn Men’s Basketball To Take On Dordt In First Round
Oskaloosa, Iowa – Players, family and friends all waited for the broadcast to begin on the big screen in Penn Gymnasium. On Wednesday night, everyone would learn who they take on in the first round of the NAIA Division II Men’s Basketball Tournament.
So with a potluck ready, a relaxed atmosphere settled over the players and coaches as they ate dinner and talked with each other, their friends, and their family members. This potluck is a tradition with the team for their ‘watch party’.
As time ticked away the selection show started. Penn was in the third quadrant of the bracket, and will face off against another Iowa team, #6 Dordt. The match up could be an interesting one, as both teams have very supportive fans and could match each other well on the court. Dordt lost to Morningside three times during the regular season, and beat conference contender AIB by nearly the same spread in scoring as did Penn. Penn also lost to Morniningside, but did so in a game that had team leader Blake Walker sidelined with an injury.
Walker, a senior, is not a newcomer to the big show but is ready to return to Point Lookout, Missouri for some redemption. “I’m very excited right now,” said Walker. For him, the only real difference between last year’s historic run and this years is the amount of people in the seats. “We’re going to open a lot of people’s eyes this year. I like being the underdog in the tournament.”
The first part of the season was a bumpy one for the Statesmen, but Walker looked to make sure the team stayed together and “clicked”.
Walker will be playing his last games for Penn in his collegiate career at Point Lookout, and he hopes to join the ranks of professional basketball players like his teammates from last year.
Oskaloosa native Erik McGee is also about to experience his third trip in a row to the finals. “Excited and confident,” is how McGee feels about the trip.
He says that after the experience of last year, it helps to give more confidence for this year.
McGee has turned into a rebounding beast this year, and his presence on the floor has been a game changer for his team. “This year, I assumed we needed someone to grab the rebounds, and I just happened to be there to grab them,” says a modest McGee, who says that he is more confident in his playing ability.
McGee says that he hopes his experience at the tournament will help others keep a level head. “Stay focused on the goal,” McGee said.
The team leaves Monday for Point Lookout, Missouri and the College of the Ozarks, who plays host to the tournament.