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St. Catharine College basketball is back in action this week as both the men and women embark on the second half of the schedule, a schedule that will be mostly games in the Mid-South Conference. But before the conference begins on Jan. 15 with a home doubleheader against West Virginia Tech, both the men and women will have some tune-up games.
Lena Bramblett’s women return to the court tonight with a game at Alice Lloyd. Their final pre-conference game will be Friday at Berea. The Patriots ended the first semester with an 8-8 slate, but with some momentum as play ended in December.
“If we can come back and play the way we were playing at the end of the semester, we will be alright,” said Bramblett. “Considering the change we made in playing against all NAIA teams, the 8-8 record isn’t that bad.”
Two conference teams are currently ranked in the top 25 teams in the nation. Campbellsville is 13th and Cumberlands is 18th. Lindsey Wilson is 27th and Georgetown is 34th.
“It is going to be tough every game,” said Bramblett of the Mid-South. “As I’ve said all year, we just have to give a consistent effort every time out to be competitive because every team in the conference is good.”
J. T. Burton sent the St. Catharine men back to the hardwood on Monday (see game report, this issue) at Cumberland University in Tennessee. Thursday they will host Berea and Monday they play their final pre-conference game at home against Temple Baptist College.
Although the Patriots struggled to a 2-12 mark in the season’s first half, Burton is optimistic about the remainder of the schedule.
“We got them back on campus Dec. 29 and we have had some really good practices since then,” Burton said. “We have just eight players now on the roster, but our intensity in practice has never been better.”
The Patriots will need that intensity as they wade through play in the Mid-South, regarded annually as one of the best NAIA conferences in the nation. In the latest poll of NAIA teams the Mid-South landed three teams in the top 25 including the University of the Cumberlands who are the top team in the nation. Georgetown was ranked 9th and Lindsey Wilson 21st. Pikeville was 29th and Campbellsville was 35th.
“Year in and year out you have to look at Georgetown as the team to beat in the conference,” said Burton. “But when Cumberlands is number one in the nation, you have to respect that.”
Burton added that the high rankings and close proximity of the conference schools should make for good basketball in the next two months. “It will be great for our players to see how they can compete against these teams with such great tradition. And the fans should really enjoy the natural rivalries that will develop with teams like Georgetown, Lindsey Wilson and Campbellsville.”