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Men’s Basketball finishes fairy-tale season

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HUNTINGTON, IN - After starting the season with a record of 2 wins and 3 losses, hopes for a great season were teetering on the brink, and the Foresters needed some quick answers. Coach Steve Platt felt the team was under-achieving, and NAIA First Team All-American and MCC Player of the Year, David Porter, was about to make his decision as to whether to continue with his season or red-shirt because of a summer knee surgery. What would Porter decide? Could the Foresters right the ship and begin playing to their potential? Would someone step up and help lead the team back to the NAIA National Tournament? Fortunately for the Foresters, each of these questions had a good answer.

After having reconstructive knee surgery in July to repair his anterior cruciate ligament, senior David Porter, along with his coach and the entire Forester entourage, were wondering how quickly he could recover and return to his All-American form. Porter was given five games in which to compete before he had to make his decision to continue or to red-shirt. If he felt good about his progress and level of play, he would continue, if his contributions weren’t close to duplicating those of a year ago, he would decide to wait and finish his career next year. At the end of the trial period, Porter left no doubts as to what the decision would be. His team-leading 21 ppg and 7.6 rpg more than answered any questions about his recovery and ability to compete.

Porter went on to lead the team in scoring and rebounding the entire season, finishing with a 20.0 scoring average and 8.3 rebounding average. Along the way, he achieved a number of milestones and received several honors for his performance. On January 5, Porter became just the fourth Huntington College men’s basketball player to reach the 2000-point plateau. After beginning the season 11th on HC’s all-time scoring list, he finished his career in the third spot with a total of 2338 points. Porter completed his phenomenal comeback as he was named MCC Player of the Year for the second straight season and earned the program’s first back-to-back NAIA First Team All-America honors.

David had a great year under all circumstances, said Platt.  His consistency throughout the season was vital to the team’s success. It means a lot to a team to have a player you can count on to go out and get double figures in scoring and eight or ten rebounds every night.

With Porter’s decision made, the question became how to get the entire team to begin playing to its potential. Platt identified a few problems.  We weren’t taking care of the ball and we weren’t defending hard, but these were things I knew we could improve. Through their first five games, the Foresters were committing over 12 turnovers per game and were giving up 88.6 points per game on the defensive end.  Brett (Snodgrass) and Adam (Hill) were struggling a little bit, but I had confidence that they would come out of it, said Platt.

Aware of the problems that needed solving and armed with the knowledge that Porter was now a permanent fixture on the floor, the team responded by winning eleven of their next twelve games. During that stretch, the team’s turnover average remained just over 12, but the team made significant improvements on defense. They reduced their points allowed per game to 69.8, almost 19 ppg less than they had allowed in their first five games. Hill also began to settle into his permanent starting role and raised his scoring average as high as 14.7 ppg during the twelve-game stretch, while Snodgrass came out of his early-season shooting slump, increasing his three-point shooting percentage from 35% to 48%. The Foresters were now poised and ready to begin their quest for a return trip to the NAIA National Tournament.

The Foresters found that their bench went deep as five different players took game-high honors and eight of the ten players on the roster scored in double figures in at least one game throughout the conference season and post-season. But as with many multiple-choice questions, some answers are better than others. In this case, three stood out above the rest. Senior David Porter, repeat NAIA First Team All-American and MCC Player of the Year, obviously lived up to his billing, averaging 20.5 ppg and 9.7 rpg in conference play. But more times than not, it was the Forester’s back court dynamic duo of Hill and Snodgrass that had a great answer.

Each year, our juniors and seniors are expected to step up, said Platt.  After we lost to Marian in the final of the conference tournament last year, two players in particular, Adam and Brett, dedicated themselves to improve, and over the summer, put in the work necessary to help them step up as juniors this year. And step up they did, earning NAIA Honorable Mention All-America and 2nd Team All-Conference honors for their efforts.

Snodgrass entered the conference schedule averaging 13.6 ppg and was shooting 46% from the field and 44% from 3-point range. Hill was averaging 12.1 ppg and was knocking down 44% of his field goals and 85% of his free throws. During the fourteen-game MCC schedule, Snodgrass poured in 19.8 ppg, raised his overall field goal percentage to 49% and his 3-point percentage to 47%, and shot 90% from the line. Not to be outdone, Hill increased his offensive output to 15.3 ppg on 49% shooting and shot 89% from the free throw line.

But something that these two demonstrated that was more important than their statistics was their heart. To what else would you attribute their uncanny ability to hit the big shot or carry the team when needed? It was visible each time Hill stepped to the line late in the game and sealed the win as he did at Indiana Wesleyan, or when Snodgrass put the team on his back and racked up 42 against Bethel when Porter was held to just 6 points. Or how about the time Hill dribbled the length of the floor in the waning seconds of the Marian game and hit a buzzer-beating lay-up to win the game, or when Snodgrass got hot in the second half of the MCC Tournament Championship game and single-handedly outscored the Knights 28-27 to earn them a ticket back to Branson? Who would step up and help lead the team back to the NAIA National Tournament?  It’s my time , echoed the juniors.

At the NAIA National Tournament in Branson, Missouri, the Foresters defeated Holy Names, California 76-60 in their first round match-up. In the round of 16, they met the defending national champions, the Northwestern Red Raiders. HC put up a good fight, but the hot shooting of the Red Raiders in the second half lifted them to the 92-80 win, thus completing the final chapter of the Forester’s fairytale season. HC finished with a 26-11 record, which was the program’s second highest win total in school history. They also broke three NAIA Division II men’s basketball national records. In their game against Malone College on January 5, they broke the record for most 3-point field goal attempts in a game by a team with their 53 attempts, and they bested the record for most 3-point field goal attempts in a game for both teams combined. HC (53) and Malone (22) combined for 75 3-point field goal attempts in the game. The old records were 46 and 73, respectively. The Foresters also set a new record for most 3-point field goals made in a season with their 383 this year. The old record was 379.

What will the future hold for the Foresters next season? If two former juniors have anything to do with it, the sky is the limit.

The Huntington College Foresters compete in 14 intercollegiate sports for men and women. In the past five years, HC has produced 33 All-Americans and 54 All-America Scholar Athletes. HC is a comprehensive Christian college of the liberal arts offering graduate and undergraduate programs in more than 50 academic concentrations. US News and World Report ranks Huntington among the best in the Midwest. Founded in 1897 by the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, Huntington College is located on a contemporary, lakeside campus in Huntington, Indiana.