On a day when St. Ambrose swept Midwest Collegiate Conference men’s basketball postseason awards, it was basketball as usual Tuesday afternoon at Lee Lohman Arena.
“We have to keep working, stay sharp and keep pushing each other every day like we have been,” said senior Mike Kennedy, who was named the MCC player of the year for the second straight year.
After taking Monday off, the Fighting Bees began preparations Tuesday for the NAIA Division II national tourney which begins one week from today at Point Lookout, Mo.
The Fighting Bees will learn tonight where they fit into the 32-team bracket when pairings are announced, but the work resumed on the practice court Tuesday.
“I feel like we’ve put ourselves in a pretty good position to get a decent seed, winning the conference and the conference tournament and winning our last 15, but you never know until the bracket is released,” said 29th-year coach Ray Shovlain, who will be taking a team to the NAIA national tourney for the 10th time in his career.
Shovlain plans to put his team through a series of short, but efficient workouts this week, seldom staying on the court for more than 75 minutes.
“We may add a wrinkle or two, but pretty much we’ll come in, get our work done and work to keep the edge we’ve had the past few weeks,” Shovlain said. “We’re playing pretty good basketball and we want to keep that going.”
Conference coaches acknowledged the program’s success Tuesday, awarding each of the three individual awards to members of the St. Ambrose program and naming three Bees to the 10-player MCC all-conference team.
Kennedy was joined on the all-league team by senior Chris Donnelly and freshman Nicholas Frazier, who was also named the MCC newcomer of the year. Shovlain was selected as the MCC coach of the year for the fifth time, the first since coaching his last NAIA qualifier in 2005.
A 6-foot-6 forward from Evergreen Park, Ill., Kennedy is the first two-time MCC player of the year since Peyton Leslie of Grand View won the award in 1998 and 1999 and joins Josh Miller as the second four-time all-conference pick in St. Ambrose history.
A returning first-team all-American, Kennedy led the conference with averages of 18.9 points and 8.8 rebounds and ranks sixth in the conference in steals at 1.5 per game.
Donnelly, a 6-5 forward from Peoria, Ill., is a repeat all-conference choice who ranks fourth nationally with an average of 2.2 blocks and is among league leaders with averages of 11.3 points, 6 rebounds and 2.6 assists.
Frazier averages 16.7 points and quickly put his shooting touch on display. The 6-2 guard from Bellwood, Ill., ranks fifth nationally with a 47.7 percent shooting touch from 3-point range while shooting 54.7 percent from the field overall.
Two Queen Bees honored
Forwards Annie Smith and Samantha Saladino of the St. Ambrose women’s basketball team were named Tuesday as first-team all-Midwest Collegiate Conference selections, the fifth straight year the Queen Bees have had at least two players on the 10-player all-league team.
Smith, a senior from Davenport Assumption, became the program’s career blocks leader this season. She led St. Ambrose with averages 14.4 points and 9.6 rebounds per game.
Saladino, a junior from Davenport West, averaged 12 points and 8 rebounds for the Queen Bees and joined Smith in ranking in the top 10 in the conference in blocks.