Seniors’ Home Finale for Basketball

Senior Basketball players reflect on their last home games.

By Daniel Zea

This past Saturday, UChicago’s basketball teams suited up to face Wash U at home for what would be a pair of exciting games and an emotional Senior Day for the teams’ seven graduating fourth-years. While Saturday’s games carried different stakes for the men and women, both teams had the same objective—to finish their seasons strongly with a win over a division rival.

The men came into their game as underdogs, with the Bears ranked No. 13 in the nation and vying for a UAA title. However, bolstered by a game-high 23 points from third-year Brennan McDaniel, the Maroons managed to pull off the upset, winning the game 77–70. Despite a disappointing first half, the team came together to take the lead in the second and never looked back. Fourth-year Jordan Baum, who scored eight points and finished his career as UChicago’s all-time assists leader, commented on the comeback, saying, “We knew we only had 20 minutes left together, and each and every guy gave it all they had to make sure we pulled out a win.” Proving that point, fourth-year Mattia Colangelo led the team with five assists, contributing nine points to the winning effort, while fourth-year Cole Schmitz added another nine. After the game, Baum said, “I think all of the seniors just wanted to make sure we went out on a high note and made the most of our last game together.” If head coach Mike McGrath’s post-game comments are any indication, they certainly did. According to McGrath, “the game…was a satisfying way to end a roller coaster season. We beat the league champs playing our best basketball of the year.”

As for the women, they entered the day as favorites, ranked No. 19 and looking to secure the UAA title and a solid seed in what would be their fourth consecutive NCAA Division III tournament. According to fourth-years Miranda Burt, Nireet Dhillon, and Taylor Lake, this objective was their primary focus going into the game, despite the emotion of playing their final game at Ratner Athletics Center. Led by fourth-year Mia Farrell’s team-leading 20 points, the Maroons managed to do exactly what they set out to, holding off the Bears to win 76–72 and capturing the UAA title in the process. According the Dhillon, “the game…reflected our season so far in a lot of ways. There were some ups and downs, but we never gave up, continued to fight, and were determined to close out the game.” Burt and Lake, who poured in 12 and 16 points respectively, echoed this sentiment, with Lake stating that “it was an incredible all-around effort.”

Reflecting on their careers after their final regular season games, this year’s fourth-years offered a number of thoughtful statements about their time as Maroons. The athletes universally attributed much of their success to the efforts of their coaches and teammates. Lake emphasized her teammates’ “relentless work ethic,” while Burt, noting the selflessness of her teammates, said, “It is hard not to be successful playing with teammates like that.”

In spite of their humility, the athletes also deserve immense praise for what they’ve accomplished in their four years here, and their coaches made sure to point that out. Women’s head coach Carissa Sain said, “Our seniors have been incredible leaders and teammates during their time here. They have changed the trajectory of this program.” Meanwhile, coach McGrath said of his seniors, “Their collective passion for basketball has had a tremendous impact on the team and will continue to have impact in future years. I think they have instilled the mentality that you can be great students, pursue amazing career opportunities *and* devote a lot of emotion and time to being successful basketball players.”

Undoubtedly, UChicago’s basketball programs will miss what their departing fourth-years have brought to the court, but their impact on their respective teams will certainly be felt for years to come. While the men likely wrapped up their season on Saturday, fans can look forward to watching the women compete for an NCAA championship later this month.