The Muhlenberg men’s basketball team started off the week in fourth place in the Centennial Conference standings with aspirations of clinching a playoff berth for the first time in Coach Hopkins’ two year Muhlenberg coaching career. However, things did not go as expected. The Mules ended their season heartbroken as they were unable to come away with wins in either of their last two contests, needing only one to clinch a playoff berth. Their two losses came at the hands of Ursinus, the three seed in the conference, and Gettysburg, a team that was not fighting for playoff contention. Both losses were close contests, each by single digit margins.
This was a very emotional loss for both Brendan Hughes ‘19 and Erik Werheim ‘19, as they never had the opportunity to compete in the postseason in any of their four years at Muhlenberg; they were hoping that they would be able to close out their careers by competing in the conference playoffs. Despite not having the opportunity to make a postseason run, this season was by far the best a Muhlenberg basketball team has looked in the past four seasons. The majority of players on this year’s team were either freshman or sophomores and despite their inexperience, the youngsters propelled this team to a near postseason berth.
As a Muhlenberg basketball fan, it was obvious that all players grew substantially under the coaching of Coach Kevin Hopkins, as he not only taught them how to better their skillset, but how to be an exceptional teammate. There is good reason to be optimistic for the Muhlenberg basketball program, as these youngsters have the talent and focus that could help them win a Centennial Conference championship in the near future.
After the final buzzer, the seniors were both reflected on the positives that they had taken away from the year despite the playoff elimination. Brendan Hughes, captain of the team, responded by saying, “One of the main positives that I took away from the season was our ability to stick together and be cohesive as a team. There were moments where we could have folded, yet, we continued to show up to practice with the same commitment and dedication. I am so proud to have been apart of this program!”
Werheim followed up saying, “I think that we had many positives throughout the year. I believe we developed a team first culture that will stay strong for years to come as well as an expected work ethic. The team had a lot of young guys this year and I think they are capable of great things down the road.”
The tremendous leadership of Hughes and Werheim will certainly develop the young talent into outstanding basketball players with poise, direction and a strong work ethic.
The seniors were also reflected upon the final words Coach Hopkins shared with them in order to keep spirits ups and heads held firmly high following the elimination from the CC playoffs. “Coach Hopkins thanked Erik and I for the impact that we have had on the program. The loss was a painful one for both of us, as it was our best chance to make the playoffs that we had throughout the entirety of our college basketball careers. His praise definitely helped ease the pain from the loss, but at the end of the day as a competitor, I wish we had the chance to host the playoff game, let alone make the playoffs,” said Hughes.
“It was tough in the locker room after the loss. Coach Hopkins talked about both Brendan and I and how we contributed to the program over the year which meant a lot to both of us, but it was definitely an emotional moment,” Werheim shared.
Despite the heartbreaking end to the season, there is good reason to be optimistic for the future. The young Mules are ready to take the Centennial Conference by storm in the 2019-2020 season, and with Coach Hopkins leading the pack this team should be good for years to come.