Basketball players win SAA awards, break school records

Miranda Smith, Campus Carrier Asst. Sports Editor

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Senior Elijah Hirsh became the first Berry men’s basketball player to earn the SAA Player of the Year award. Photos by Andrea Hill | Campus Carrier

The men’s and women’s basketball teams ended their historic seasons in the Southern Athletic Association (SAA) tournament last weekend. The men’s team traveled to Danville, Ky. for the opening round of the tournament to face Millsaps College and the women’s team traveled to Jackson, Miss. to play Centre College in the tournament quarterfinals.

The women lost to Centre 57-44 in the opening round, closing off their season of success. The team closed the season with an overall 13-13 record and with a 9-5 record in conference play, which tied the program record for SAA victories.

Sophomore Jana Morning described the team chemistry that played into the season of success for the team and how they were able to overcome adversity.

“We’ve had very high highs and very low lows, but we’ve always tried to stay focused on the fact that it was just us,” Morning said. “Win or lose, when we stepped between those lines, nothing else and nobody else mattered except for the 14 of us and playing for each other.”

The men’s team defeated Millsaps 62-60 to advance to the semifinals to compete against Sewanee; The University of the South. However, the men’s team fell to the Sewanee Tigers 70-63. Their overall record for the season was 19-7, which tied the team’s best record since the 2008-09 season.

Senior Myles Moore explained what factors played into the historic season and how the team bought into the newly reorganized program.

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Sophomore Jana Morning earned her first All-Conference selection and closed the season ranked top 10 in the SAA.

“Buying into our coaches’ philosophies played a huge role in our successful season,” Moore said. “One of the main things that we stressed throughout the year was staying connected as group. From Coach (Mitch) Cole to the last man on the bench, we were a family. Whether we were up by 15 points or down by 15, we promised that we were going to play together and play for each other.”

There were three total men’s basketball All-Conference selections announced on Monday, which were senior Elijah Hirsh, Moore, and junior Caleb Haynes. Hirsh earned the SAA Player of the Year honors and ranked second in the conference for points per game and led the conference in rebounds per game. He also ranked second for blocks for the year and ranked third in Berry’s NCAA DIII era record book for points and boards in a single season. Moore set the team’s NCAA DIII record for steals in a single season with a total of 53 for the year and ranked third in the SAA for assists per game. Haynes earned All-SAA honorable mention and ranked second in the NCAA DIII for field percentage at the end of the conference tournament.

Hirsh describes how he was able to accomplish so much this season.

“It was an awesome honor I sincerely appreciated, but I could not have done it by myself,” Hirsh said. “My teammates have been beside me all year fighting every game to make this season a good one.”

From the women’s team, senior Alex Weems and sophomore Jana Morning were selected to the SAA All-Conference second team on Monday. Graduating in May, Weems will graduate with the DIII era program record for most free throws made in a career and second in the league in scoring. She also became the third Viking to score a thousand points in a career, which placed her in third for the team’s DIII for scoring. Morning earned her first All-Conference selection and helped Berry to a nine-game winning streak with her top-10 ranked number of assists, steals and free throw percentage.

Morning described her feelings towards her fist All-Conference selection and how she can build off of it in her future seasons to come.

“I reached a lot of personal goals I set in the preseason and fell short of first team, so I’m only aiming higher,” Morning said. “I’ll definitely be coming for Player of the Year my junior and senior seasons. You can’t underestimate yourself.”

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