By Matt Leon
The latest chapter in a remarkable turnaround story in Collegeville was written on Saturday.READ MORE: Philadelphia Officials Begin Clearing Homeless Encampment Near Reading Terminal Market
The Division III Ursinus Bears pulled off an upset of the #4 team in the country, Dickinson College, at Helfferich Hall, 53-50.
“I was really happy for our guys,” Ursinus head coach Kevin Small tells KYW Newsradio. “They have worked so hard this year and they had faith when it was hard to have faith back in October and November.”
Listen to the entire interview with Ursinus head coach Kevin Small
It was hard to have faith because the Bears started the 2014-15 season 0-7. Since then they have gone 9-5 and have clawed their way into the hunt for a spot in the Centennial Conference Tournament (9-12 overall, 6-8 in the Centennial).
The Bears actually won three straight games after that 0-7 start, including one at a Division III holiday tournament down in Florida. But Small says he really feels like the corner was turned in early January.READ MORE: Two Delaware County School Districts Opening Vaccination Clinics For Students Ages 16 Or Older
“We played Gettysburg,” Small says, “who is a terrific team and a big rival, and we played Gettysburg our first game back from Florida. And I think the way we competed, we won that game (76-75 on January 7th), but it was more about our character defensively. The way we had a bit more grit and toughness to us, I think our guys began to see how hard it is to win a game in the Centennial Conference and what it takes physically to go out and compete. I think since then, our effort level has been pretty stable and we also have added to that a higher and higher level of defensive execution.”
What really makes this improvement exciting is the fact that the Bears do not have a senior on the roster, so this entire group has a whole bunch of college basketball still in front of them. Their one healthy junior is their leading scorer Malik Draper, who averages 13.9 points per game. Their second leading scorer is sophomore guard Matt Knowles. For the most part this season, Small has started three freshmen (forwards Joseph LoStracco and Remi Jancicot and guard Brian Rafferty) and several other freshmen and sophomores are key contributors.
Saturday was obviously a big win and a big step for the surging Bears, but Small says it is important to take it all in stride.
“It suggests that we’ve come a long way,” Small says. “I’m happy for our kids, but we also talk about kind of never too high, never too low and win the day. Be in the moment. And I think for us, that’s really important coming off Saturday, because it is just one game.”
And it doesn’t get any easier in the next game. On Wednesday the Bears travel out to Lancaster to take on the #16 team in the country (and another Centennial Conference rival) Franklin and Marshall.MORE NEWS: Trenton Officials Making Sure People With Mobility Issues Receive COVID-19 Vaccine
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.