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From underdog to intramural basketball champion

BY MATT COZZI | APRIL 14, 2010 7:30 AM

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Ole School wasn’t supposed to win the men’s intramural All-University basketball championship on April 7.

Not as the No. 12-seed, at least.

Now, the news is out on Ole School.

Going into the postseason with a 3-1 regular-season record and seeded 12th in a 52-team field, many appeared to overlook the seemingly inferior bunch of hoopsters.

But six-straight victories — including a 74-51 win against defending All-U champion MGR Express — put the squad in the championship final.

“Those wins were really good. We built confidence from each of the games we played in,” Ole School senior Josh Luerkens said. “We got on a roll, and the more we played with each other, the more comfortable we got. There were certain situations where we had to buckle down, and we felt good at those times.”

After a dominating run to the championship game, Ole School again was given an unfavorable matchup on paper.

An intramural basketball championship meant defeating top-seed UISSC, a team known for its previous success in intramural sports on both the gridiron and the hardwood. Prior to the game in the Field House, it seemed as though the powerhouse squad would again reign supreme.

But Ole School defeated UISSC for the All-U crown, 83-72.

UISSC forward Nick Kron isn’t calling it an upset, though, Kron, who was disappointed after the loss, said his squad probably would have beaten Ole School “nine times out of 10.”

“They got the one when it mattered,” he said after the loss. “So more power to them for getting the one. They have a lot of good players, and tonight was their night.”

Ole School’s Kingsley Botchway had a different take on the title contest, however.

He said he felt as though Ole School had all the tools to make the playoff run, and “that nine times out of 10 comment may be a little skewed.”

“We definitely thought we could go far,” he said. “If not win, then maybe the final four or so.”

Ultimately, the win against UISSC became the final piece of the intramural basketball puzzle for the lower-seeded team.

“I wasn’t really worried about the final game,” Botchway said. “I just wanted to have some fun.”

Ole School, a seven-player squad composed of five seniors, one doctor, and one law student, also featured familiarity on the squad. Three of the Ole School players have known each other since high school, and the others met for the first time either in classes or playing pickup games in the Field House.

Luerkens said playing as a team was vital for the long playoff stretch, and there was “no Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan on this team.”

As far as a possible comeback next year, Luerkens said he wasn’t sure about the group’s future, noting intramural competitors will have to wait and see.

“At this point, I’m not sure if anyone is going to be back next season,” he said. “If not, we made a great run this year.”

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