by Tymber Gabbert
Emotions. Sometimes emotions are viewed as obstacles, and other times they are seen as motivators. For the seniors of the Greenville College men’s basketball team, all sorts of emotions rushed through their minds as they were forced to say goodbye to the sport they fell in love with. Although the 2016-17 basketball season came to an abrupt end, the memories these nine seniors have created throughout their years in the GC basketball program are sure to bring both tears of joy and tears of pain as they reflect on the ups and downs they have experienced as brothers in the program.
The 2016-17 season proved successful for the men’s basketball program as they ended the season with an overall record of 21-6, going 14-4 in conference. Not only did they end the season with a winning record, but they also finished at the top of the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, giving them the opportunity to host the conference tournament. The homecourt advantage proved successful in the semifinal as they defeated the number four seed Principia College to advance to the SLIAC tournament championship. Unfortunately, their success was short-lived as they suffered a painfully close 128-121 loss to Westminster College in the championship game. As the Panthers saw the championship slip through their fingers, they were able to take the loss humbly and look back on the many accomplishments they made throughout the season. Shane Smith, a California native and senior forward, has created many memories during his time here at GC, but the one that shines brightest is when he and his brothers on the basketball team worked their way to the top of conference and were given the honor of cutting down the game net. “It was a goal that we had been chasing since I got here, and to actually accomplish it means a lot,” said Smith. Another highlight of the season for Smith was the last-second overtime victory over Eureka College, when senior guard Kenny Greene made a half-court shot to win the game by a slim 145-142 margin. “The way we battled back and were able to come out with a big win made me appreciate this team even more,” Smith said. Not only did this victory help the Panthers win the conference title, but it also landed Greenville a highlight on SportCenter’s top 10 list.
One of the aspects that makes the basketball program so special is the sense of family that the coaches promote. Super-senior guard Brian Ehresman is a perfect example of this concept. Ehresman suffered a devastating ACL tear at the beginning of his senior year, which resulted in his inability to compete that season. Due to his love for the game and commitment to the program, Ehresman knew he had to come back and compete an extra year in order to end his basketball career on a positive note. “I knew it would be a sacrifice, but I have invested too much time into the game to just stop after an injury if there is still an opportunity to play.” Ehresman continued, “I love Greenville and my teammates and coaches, so it was a pretty easy decision.” Ehresman admitted that coming back to play an extra season came with uncertainty, but now knows that it was the right decision, “I would be lying if I said I never had doubts, but I am really glad I stuck with it.”
Both Ehresman and Smith agree that the loss to Westminster in the SLIAC tournament championship game was tough to swallow as they saw their basketball careers come to an end. “We were so close to doing something that no men’s basketball team has done at Greenville and I felt like it slipped right through our fingers,” reflected Smith. Ehresman added that the lost opportunity to compete in the NCAA tournament intensified the bitter taste in their mouths; however, those bitter reflections will soon fade and be overshadowed by the glorious memories of nail-biting overtime victories, deafening home game crowds and long bus rides where true personalities came out.
Emotions. Sometimes we hide them and sometimes they are too difficult to conceal. But in the end, GC basketball seniors Ehresman, Smith, Stevonte Young (Peace), Greene, Deandre Brown, Richard Clemons, Elmo Smith, Michael Hohm and Josh Herrick are likely to tell you that it’s not the wins and losses that make saying goodbye so difficult. It’s the realization that the opportunity to play the game they love with teammates who are like a second family has come to an end. Emotions. They remind us that we are a part of something bigger than ourselves, and that it is worth the pain of one day saying goodbye.