BY NICK LEWIS
Adversity has been common for the Salisbury University men’s basketball season this preseason. It began with the upheaval within its coaching staff with the departure of its former head coach and then a former graduate assistant. Then, just before the season, the Sea Gulls were picked to finish fourth in the Capital Athletic Conference Preseason Poll this year.
Despite the noise, however, SU interim head coach Brian McDermott has his 11-man Sea Gull squad firing on all cylinders, boasting a 3-0 record to start the year. All three wins have come against teams that will be in the conversation for conference championships.
The Sea Gulls opened their season playing host to Arcadia University on Nov. 10. Despite some struggles early in the game, the offense scored 85 points and had five players score in double digits. SU senior guard Blair Davis led the team with 14 points along with six assists.
Following this hot start, Salisbury had a golden opportunity to improve its playoff resume the following weekend.
On Nov. 16 and 17, the Sea Gulls hosted the Salisbury Optimist International Tournament. Along with Salisbury, the tournament featured the men’s basketball teams of DeSales University, Lancaster Bible College and No. 15 Johns Hopkins University.
The tournament began with a matchup between Johns Hopkins (2-2) and DeSales (2-2). Despite strong play from the Bulldogs early in the game, the Blue Jays took home the win, 85-78.
The main contributor for the Blue Jays offensively was Michael Gardner, who tied his career high with 30 points. Gardner also moved higher in the Johns Hopkins history books, sinking seven three-pointers and moving into eighth place in three-point shots made.
With a seven-point lead at the half, Johns Hopkins would come out of the break firing on all cylinders, quickly extending its lead to 16. This double-digit lead held for the majority of the second half.
The win meant that Johns Hopkins would face the winner of the matchup between SU (3-0) and Lancaster Bible College (1-2). DeSales was relegated to face the loser of the matchup.
The Sea Gulls started the game out of sync offensively, with early miscues and turnovers allowing the Chargers to build a 9-2 lead in the first few minutes.
Following the growth of the lead to eight points, Davis and sophomore guard Gary Briddell began to ignite the Sea Gulls’ offense. The two guards led them to a 12-3 run and gave them the lead, 22-21.
Despite a push offensively from the Chargers, the Sea Gulls carried a ten-point lead into the half, 46-36. Briddell finished the half with a team-high 13 points, while Davis finished with 12 points and three steals.
The Chargers came out of the break strong, cutting the Salisbury lead to just six points to begin. This would be the smallest lead of the second half, however, as the Sea Gulls went on a 16-2 run to extend the lead again.
Salisbury went on to take the win, 92-73. This set the stage for a battle between DeSales University and Lancaster Bible College, followed by the championship game between the Sea Gulls and the Blue Jays.
The Optimist International Tournament Championship began with some tough back-and-forth between the Sea Gulls and the Blue Jays. Salisbury did find some breathing room, however, as a J.P. Krotulis layup sparked a 9-2 run.
A three-pointer from Gary Briddell from the corner fell for the Gulls, leading them to a nine-point lead, 21-12. This was the largest lead for either side in the first half.
The Blue Jays did respond though, finding an 11-0 run of their own and leading the visiting team to a two-point lead. However, five quick points from Briddell brought the Sea Gulls back into the driver’s seat.
With Briddell dropping 13 points in the first 20 minutes, the Sea Gulls took a 31-30 lead into the break. That one-point lead blossomed into 10 points to start the second half, including five points from junior forward James Foley.
Despite the Blue Jays battling back to tie the game, the Sea Gulls did not allow them to take the victory. Sophomore guard Johnny Fierstein scored all 11 of his points in the final few minutes, sealing the Salisbury victory.
The 78-69 win keeps the Sea Gulls undefeated early on this season. Their victory over the No. 15 Blue Jays may mean even more toward the end of the season if JHU can win the Centennial Conference.
Salisbury may have conquered some of its tougher early season opponents, but now the Sea Gulls must test their skills on the road just before Thanksgiving. Tuesday night, Virginia Wesleyan will host the Sea Gulls for a 7:30 p.m. tip. It will be another chance for SU to continue writing a new chapter.
Featured photo: SU senior forward Chase Kumor takes a three-pointer vs. Lancaster Bible. Nov. 16. Emma Reider photo