Comets rocket through McMurry to make ASC playoffs

Photo by Vedant Sapra | Mercury Staff

Racing toward the ASC Championship Tournament, the Comets dominated McMurry’s War Hawks on Feb. 6 at one of the final home games of the season before dropping their seven-game win streak to top-seeded Mary Hardin Baylor at an away game last Thursday.

Before their loss to long-standing foe, Mary Hardin Baylor, the Comets stood at 18-3 in the season and 13-1 in the ASC; the Comets now stand at 19-4 at 14-2 in the ASC. Through their loss, the Comets maintain the top seed in the ASC with the Cru. Both teams are tied across all conference categories. UTD is also now among seven teams in the first NCAA Division III regional rankings, which include two other schools in the ASC – Mary Hardin Baylor and East Texas Baptist.

Graduate guard Kyle Poerschke led both the Feb. 6 and Feb. 9 matches with top scores of 25 points and 19 points, earning him his third seasonal ASC Player of the Week award. In addition to his ASC accolades, Poerschke was named U.S. Basketball Writers Association Division III National Player of the Week earlier in the season for setting a school record of 43 points made in a single game. Poerschke set the new standard at the Comets’ Jan. 14 win against the Polytechnic Institute, where he shined in shooting efficiency, scoring 71.4% of field goals and 70% of 3-pointers. Men’s basketball coach Terry Butterfield describes Poerschke as one of the top players in the ASC league at this moment.

“Kyle is one of the most important parts of our team,” Butterfield said. “Obviously, he can score the ball, but he can do other things as well. He also brings some maturity and some leadership to the team … I don’t think that we’d be having the same level of success this year without him.”

Poerschke also posted his first career double-double at last Monday’s match, following 11 rebounds and six assists, contributing to the Comet’s powerful victory of 103-79.

“We knew that [McMurry] would play really fast,” Poerschke said. “We knew that they were going to be running and taking as many shots as they could, and we just knew that we had to get back. We knew we had to take good shots on the offensive side and then get back whenever it was time to get back for defense. And so we really had to focus on defense. They averaged 90 points a game. We held them under that tonight, which is a good job for us.”

Senior guard Hunter Stevens was responsible for the team’s early lead in each match, both defending the court and working offense. Stevens said his forte is making solid passes and setting up his teammates, which is evident by his leading seven assists in the Feb. 6 match and four assists in the Feb. 9 match.

“That’s what I enjoy most, but when I start getting shots up and hitting them, then I feel good about it, and I think I can do everything pretty decently,” Stevens said. “For defense, it’s really a confidence thing. You have to believe that you can stop the guy [in order] to have any hope in that challenge. And it’s an honor to have that challenge, so I accept it gladly.”

Butterfield said he often matches Stevens up on defense with the competing team’s prime scorers. For Monday’s game, that included a leading conference scorer, McMurry’s CJ LeBlanc.

“He’s a senior,” Butterfield said. “He’s an experienced guy, and you count on those guys to step up during the big moments, and he got off to a pretty good start. He understands our defense and our offense as well, if not better than anybody else. So, his intelligence on the floor is of real value to us every time we play … we count on those seniors. We count on James Curtis, Will Isaac, Hunter and Kyle to really lead the young guys. And I think the young guys are more than willing to follow the older guys along because they are experienced, and they’ve been down this road before.”

With two games left in the season, Butterfield said he’d like for the team to focus on getting as few fouls as possible. For example, Monday’s game started fast paced with quick baskets from Stevens and Poerschke but lost momentum in the second half from fouls committed by both the Comets and the War Hawks.

“It’s an issue. We’re not where we need to be at that right now,” Butterfield said. “No team is going to play foul free, but I think we foul excessively at times. But I think that a lot of the stuff that [McMurry] was doing [that night] forced us into those situations.”

The Comets are set to play their last two matches on campus for homecoming this Thursday, Feb. 16 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, Feb. 18 at 3 p.m. before the ASC championship quarter finals.

“We’re in a pretty good position right now, so our guys know what’s at stake,” Butterfield said. “We’ve, been together a long time now, so it’s just a matter of them having good preparation every time that they play and coming ready to play, but physically and mentally preparing for each game.”

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