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Remarkable Twin Seasons for Hoops

A sixth Midwest Conference championship and fifth NCAA Division III Tournament appearance in the last eight seasons posted by the women; a fifth Midwest Conference championship and fifth NCAA Division III Tournament appearance in the last six seasons – rounding out a second undefeated season – registered by the men; the run of excellence continues for St. Norbert basketball.

“We are not a dynasty by any means, but we are solid,” says women’s coach Connie Tilley. “I hate losing ... but I never talk about winning or losing. I talk about preparing the kids to play the next team on our schedule. The score will take care of itself. We just need to do our part.” The calling card for the Green Knights under Tilley is defense. This season, the team held opponents to 50 points per game and 33 percent shooting from the field. “Defense is my forte,” she says. “Defense is something that everyone can play.”

Tilley’s team lost three players to season-ending injuries. The squad was also one of her youngest, featuring one senior, forward Tasha Giese ’15. “I cannot tell you how proud I am for what they have done and what they have accomplished,” Tilley says. “We’ve become a very mentally strong team. I don’t know if we would have had that toughness without the adversity we faced.”

That toughness was on display during the Green Knights only conference loss, 60-58 in overtime at Monmouth when multiple players were ill. “They hung in there and fought,” says Tilley. “We don’t want bad things to happen, but when they do, how do you handle them? This team has done that very well. They are overachievers. They listen, they work hard; they do everything we ask them to do and more.” 

Expectations will remain high with so many returning players for next season.

The St. Norbert men posted a second consecutive undefeated conference season despite losing five starters – including two first-team all-conference selections.

“I think the players sometimes take winning for granted, but there is a lot that goes into it,” says men’s head coach Gary Grzesk. “You have to pay the price each and every day. These guys wanted to write their own chapter to this season and their careers. They have done that.”

The defensive prowess of the Green Knights – allowing fewer than 60 points per game – was matched by a highly efficient offense. St. Norbert led all of college basketball, shooting at a 55 percent clip from the floor. “We have unselfish kids willing to make the extra pass and hit the open man,” Grzesk says.

“We try to take good shots,” says guard Austin Elliott ’16. “It helps when you have both Andrew [Schwoerer ’15] and Steve [Hofacker ’15] shooting 60 percent. Our guards are also high-percentage shooters. Teams have to respect everyone we put on the floor. We have a lot of confidence that guys will knock down shots.” The trio finished with the most wins – 85 – in program history.

The St. Norbert men and women have both been nationally ranked throughout the season.


April 17, 2015