Men's Basketball Review:
Team Wins Region And Trip to Nationals


West Windsor, N.J. - According to head coach Howard Levy, the success of the men's basketball team is no mystery. It can be attributed to a combination of talent and teamwork. With a record of 5-8 at the winter break, the Vikings stormed back in the second half of the season by playing solid team ball. They ended the year as Region 19 champs for the first time since 1998 and traveled to the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) national tournament in Danville, Ill.

"It was a terrific season. The team really improved - maybe more than I've ever seen from where they started and then going on to win the region," Levy said.

While it was a great accomplishment getting to the national championships, Levy maintains that his players went out there to win and were quite disappointed by the results. He believes their two losses - to Kishwaukee College 82-73 on Mar. 16 and Pima Community College 79-58 on Mar. 18 - were due in part to a loss of momentum after almost two weeks off between the Region 19 championship and the tournament.

"The long lay-off hurt us. It was harder to stay sharp," Levy said. In addition, the Vikings' leading scorer, Uros Kovacevic, sprained his ankle in practice the day before the first game, which limited his effectiveness.

Still, Levy says the team had a great experience. "It was a big-time tournament. We had some good practices. There were lots of coaches scouting from four-year schools."

Ending the season 20-14, the Vikings clearly embraced Levy's approach to the game, which includes a disciplined, team-oriented, pass-first, style of basketball that dates to his own days as a player at Princeton University. "These guys sacrificed to help the team be better," he said. "They realized the roles they were being asked to play and did what needed to be done."

The team's confidence began to build in January, when the Vikings started defeating teams they had lost to earlier in the season. A pivotal point was the Jan. 28 game against Lackawanna, when Mercer won 63-60 in the closing seconds.

After that win, the men enjoyed a run of 10 wins in 11 games. The Vikings continued to jell in the Region 19 tournament, with victories against Essex (70-64) in the quarterfinal on Feb. 23 and Del Tech (76-68) in the semi-final on Feb. 28, and an upset win against top-seeded Lackawanna 79-69 in the Region 19 championship game on Mar. 2. (The Vikings entered the tournament as the third seed.)

According to Levy, in the Region 19 title game, everything came together. Kovacevic poured in 29 points and Paco Boussougou added 14 points and 11 rebounds. Isaiah Andrews and Quentin Loftin each added 13 points. Kovacevic earned tournament Most Valuable Player honors.

Second in scoring after Kovacevic was center Paco Boussougou, also the team's leading rebounder. Point guard Derek Williams played a key role as well. "It was a different style for him and he did what was asked to make other guys better when it mattered," Levy said.

Other contributors were point guard Quentin Loftin, who started every game, forward Isaiah Andrews, who was solid throughout the Region 19 tournament, forwards Gary Carthan and Aaron Smitherman, and guards Anthony Obery, Quincy Hendryx and Marcus Jimenez.

Two players received post-season honors. Kovacevic and Boussougou were GSAC first team selections and Kovacevic was named to the Region 19 second team.

Coach Levy was assisted this season by MCCC alumni Tom DeStephano and Miles Smith.

Guard Anthony Obery
Guard Derek Williams

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At nationals in Danville, Ill.
The Vikings celebrate with the Region 19 trophy
after defeating Lackawanna.
Uros Kovacevic was the tournament's Most Valuable Player.
Paco Boussougou was the team's lead
rebounder and second leading scorer.
Coach Levy earned Region 19's Coach of the Year Award.
Forward Isaiah Andrews