The basketball season kicked off on Monday, November 2nd, when the Emmaus Eagles' men's basketball team headed to Richland Center, WI, to face the University of Wisconsin – Richland. After coming off of a solid second half performance in the annual alumni game the Saturday before, Coach Wilkerson was excited to see how the team would fare against their first real opponent of the season. "We try to do a good job of scouting our opponents ahead of playing them but were unable to find anything on UW as this was their first game of the season as well. We told the guys to focus on playing their game the right way. If they did that and corrected the mistakes from Saturday's game, we would be in a position to compete".
From the sidelines during warm-ups, UW looked quick and athletic and were attempting a lot of dunks in front of the Emmaus bench. Unfazed by the theatrics, the coaches encouraged the starters to stay focused and that if they could come out and be the more disciplined team, they would do well.
The opening tip-off saw Emmaus get on the board in less than 3 seconds. With a nice tip from Caleb Ruter to Cody Nicely for the layup, the Eagles were off and running. Showing a dedication to playing tough defense, Emmaus pressured the ball and forced UW into several contested looks and limited them to one shot on most possessions. Senior Skyler Sandry and freshman Nathaniel Glidewell provided an early burst of offensive power to get the momentum going in the right direction. With good ball movement and unselfish play, the Eagles' saw their lead grow throughout the first half and went into the locker room at the break up 35-16.
"Holding any team to 16 points in a half is a very encouraging sign and really shows the guy's commitment on the defensive end," Coach Wilkerson explained. "We told them that they made a statement in the first half and now it was time to make another one. We wanted them to not let off the gas and build upon the lead so we could get our bench some good minutes."
It looked like the Eagles' would do exactly that as they continued to push the pace and play hard nosed defense. Just as things were falling into place, starting point guard Cody Nicely came down wrong on his ankle and had to leave the game. He would not return.
Sensing an opportunity, UW started pushing the ball and took advantage of the timidness from some of the backups. After knocking the lead down to under 20, Coach Wilkerson called a timeout and encouraged the guys that the clock was their friend and they should look to use it to their advantage and not rush.
With Nicely out at point and the backups struggling against the ball pressure, guard Caleb Postma asked if he could take over that position. Having practiced at point early in the year, Postma showed that he was more than capable of handling the role and successfully helped calmed the team down. Combined with senior Caleb Ruter finding his stroke, Emmaus was able to weather the storm and do what was desired at halftime which was to allow the bench players to get some valuable minutes.
The final score was 77-45 and this was the third consecutive season opening win for the Emmaus' men's team. Ruter finished with a game high 18 points followed closely by his fellow senior, Sandry, who had 17. Sandry also finished with 7 boards and 6 assists.
Next on the schedule is a tough matchup against a Goliath opponent in Grace Bible College. The teams will play at 7:00 on Friday, November 6th, down in Michigan for the JFB Tournament. This game will be followed by a to-be-determined game depending on the results from Friday's matchups. All games will be live streamed on Grace's website.