The men’s basketball team has historically been very strong as a power in the GLVC conference. Especially in the past three seasons, under twelve-year head coach Luke Reigel, who sits second on the school’s all-time win list.The Rangers have won two straight GLVC East regular season championships and are looking to make it a third with this dominating campaign.
The men are ranked twelfth in the country, the highest they’ve ever been, and are two wins away from matching last year’s win total. There are still four games left, not including the GLVC tournament and the NCAA tournament, which they are a lock for. Since their defeat to Bellarmine University, the team is on a four game win streak, and in those four games they have outscored their opponents by a combined 390 points to 296. I spoke to Coach Reigel and asked him if complacency a concern with the team being so successful all season. “We have a veteran group of guys who knows that every team, no matter talent level, can play,” Reigel said. “Anybody on any given night can beat anybody, our group is mature enough to realize that.” In route to that four game win streak, our men knocked off the number one team in the country, the University of Indianapolis, in a very hotly contested game that came down to the last few possessions. Indy made mistakes while the Rangers stayed cool and collected, leading to a W. I asked Coach Reigel how the locker room was after that victory. “Well, the last time that happened it was in 1997 and it was against Indy, so naturally the guys were happy,” he said. “But we didn’t feel like it was an upset. We went in, business as usual. We were confident and expecting to win. That’s why we weren’t rattled throughout.”
I also spoke to one of the star players on the team, Jimmy Gavin, about how team chemistry is with the team being so successful this season. “The locker room has been great,” Gavin said. “The reason we have been able to be so successful is because we all play for each other and with each other. We have each other’s backs and we are all on the same rope going the same direction.” Jimmy spent some time over the summer playing in Puerto Rico with Athletes in Action (AIA). I asked him about his time there and if it helped him coming into this season. “It was a really good experience in terms of leadership, growing as a player,” he said. “When I came back I tried to be a better teammate and a better leader and just go from there.” It obviously worked, in speaking with Coach Reigel, he not only named Gavin as one of the team’s leaders, but also junior Andy Mazurczak, senior and sole holder of the all-time three point record, Jordan Mach and Pre-season All-American senior “Ziggy” Riauka.
I caught up with centerpiece of the team and asked him about being named to the Pre-season All-American team, and he was very humble yet critical on himself. “I feel like I don’t deserve it right now, I feel like I haven’t played to my potential, I just hope we keep winning and get a national title,” Riauka said. “I am not really worried about these awards to be honest.” I asked him to comment on his longtime coach, and as you would expect, nothing but praise from the big guy. “He’s been amazing,” he said. “He’s been there since day one, always putting me through stuff and even now finding ways for me to get better and improve. He’s a great coach and I love him.” Coach Reigel was less critical of his star center, but still admitted that there is always room for improvement. “Ziggy has handled the pressure [as an All-American selection] well,” Reigel said. “He’s consistent, he’s getting healthy, he’s been battling shoulder problems but he is getting back to his full potential. He’s still improving and has always put the team first.”
We can’t forget about the women’s basketball squad either, who are currently one of the hottest teams in the country, riding a twelve game win streak. The team has turned their season around a complete one hundred and eighty degrees, already doubling their win total from last season. Second year head Coach, Jacob Yorg, definitely has the team going in the right direction.
Both basketball teams have two home games left, one this Saturday versus Drury University, ranked seventeenth (1 p.m. and 3 p.m.), and next Thursday versus Lewis University (5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.). Let’s make sure to come out and support the teams like never before. These are historically two of the best teams in school history. Let’s treat them as such and continue to show Ranger Pride!
Article by Jalen Perry