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Men’s basketball prepares for Heart tournament

Junior+Dan+Young+goes+up+for+a+basket+while+surrounded+by+Grand+View+defenders+on+Feb.+25.+Baker+defeated+Grand+View+93-88+inside+the+Collins+Center.+Image+by+Elizabeth+Hanson.
Junior Dan Young goes up for a basket while surrounded by Grand View defenders on Feb. 25. Baker defeated Grand View 93-88 inside the Collins Center. Image by Elizabeth Hanson.

Junior Dan Young goes up for a basket while surrounded by Grand View defenders on Feb. 25. Baker defeated Grand View 93-88 inside the Collins Center. Image by Elizabeth Hanson.

Elizabeth Hanson

Elizabeth Hanson

Junior Dan Young goes up for a basket while surrounded by Grand View defenders on Feb. 25. Baker defeated Grand View 93-88 inside the Collins Center. Image by Elizabeth Hanson.

Story by Chad Mullen, Writer

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Heading into the final week of the regular season, the Baker men’s basketball team showed plenty of talent, taking down a top five team in William Penn University. But eight one-possession losses throughout the season had the Wildcats wondering about their ability to perform in tight games.

“We were put in a position where we didn’t know if we could finish out the close ones,” junior transfer Tyree Peter said.

Two five-point victories over top teams in the Heart of America Athletic Conference proved to Peter and the rest of the Wildcats that they can thrive in the upcoming conference tournament.

“We needed that,” he said. “These last two games showed that we can compete with the best and beat the best.”

The Wildcats finished with their best record since 2011-2012 at 16-14, earning the eighth-seed in the tournament. In addition to team success, individual honors went to senior and leading-scorer Javeion Gray, who was selected to second team all-conference, and junior Dan Young, who received a nod at honorable mention.

Peter’s production has steadily increased as the season has progressed, as he is third on the team in scoring an average nine points per game and leads in rebounding at 5.7 per game. The last seven games, however, the newcomer has shot 54 percent from the field and is averaging 12.1 points and 6.4 boards over that stretch. Finding his groove has been vital to the success of the Wildcats late in the year.

“It’s something that I should have been doing all year,” he said of his recent production. “But it was a work in progress, learning my role and where I fit in. Now that I found it, it’s a nice fit for me, and I enjoy doing everything I can to help the team win.”

Peter has relished his role on a team that plans to build on this year’s newfound success. The Wildcats have increased their win total each of the past three seasons.

“One of the things they asked me was whether I would mind coming to a program that is currently building and will continue to get better as the years progress, and I didn’t mind it at all,” he said. “I enjoy the process that we’re going through, and we are getting better exactly as we thought we would, so I’ve just been enjoying the ride.”

With the eighth seed, the Wildcats will take on ninth-seeded Peru State College in the first round of the tournament, a team they split games with in the regular season. The Wildcats will be at home, where Peter hopes a playoff atmosphere will pulse through the Collins Center.

“Home games definitely help boost the confidence, and having the crowd support will put us in the right position mentally.”

To keep the momentum the team finished off with in the regular season, Peter knows the Wildcats cannot rest on their laurels.

“We have to have a more defensive mindset, focusing on getting stops rather than outscoring the other team,” he said. “We have to buy into the system and give 100 percent effort, doing what we have to but not necessarily what we want to do in order to get the job done. That is something we struggled with early, but know we can do now.”

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