Men's and women's basketball salute seniors

By The Beacon | February 29, 2012 9:00pm

Sophomore guard Tim Douglas holds down the fort on defense, allowing the rest of the Pilots to reset at the far end of the court. Though the Pilots failed to garner 20 wins this season, Reveno is confident he as built a solid foundation of young talent (Kayla Wong | The Beacon)

By Bruce Garlinghouse, Staff Writer --

Senior night means more to men's Head Basketball Coach Eric Reveno than to most coaches.

"Senior night is probably more emotional for me than some other coaches, and I think it is partly because of my experience as a player and the fact I take responsibility to the players so importantly and so critically," Reveno said.

Last Thursday and Saturday, seniors on the men's and women's basketball teams took to the hardwood in the Chiles Center one last time as Pilots.

Neither team was able to find a victory.

The men fell to No. 23 ranked St. Mary's 70-43 despite an early run led by senior Nemanja Mitrovic.

Mitrovic hit two quick threes, showing shades of last year when he was one of the nation's most dangerous from beyond the arc.

"I came in knowing I don't have many games left in my career, and I wanted to play as well as I could," Mitrovic said.

But the Pilots cooled down and committed a string of turnovers, a problem that has plagued them all season and the Gaels jumped ahead and didn't look back.

Two days later, the Pilots lost their sixth straight game, falling to BYU 76-66 in Provo, Utah.

They finished the season 6-23, failing to continue their streak of at least 20 wins in a season.

Reveno said this season does not show what Mitrovic and senior point guard Eric Waterford have done for the program, which was quickly turned around after Reveno's hiring in 2006.

"Their legacy isn't about this year," Reveno said. "Their legacy is about the fact they have won more games than three other classes in the history of the school being division one and they've built a foundation for us that we can build on going forward."

Both had down years compared to last year.

Waterford missed most of the season after injuring his foot, and Mitrovic shot 31 percent from three this year after shooting 46 percent last year, the 6th highest in the nation.

Next year, the men's team will only have one senior in Derrick Rodgers, but Mitrovic said he and Waterford are leaving a very capable team.

"We work hard, play defense and take care of each other and we'll win games," Mitrovic said. "This group needs to get back to that way of playing and I think me and Eric have built a foundation for that."

The women's game was much closer than the men's, but they still weren't able to pull it out.

After several lead changes throughout the second half, the Toreros grabbed a five-point lead at the five-minute mark. That proved to be enough and the Pilots lost 46-51.

"It's always tough when we lose," women's Head Coach Jim Sollars said. "We gave ourselves a chance and should have shot the ball a little bit better."

In their last game in the Chiles Center, all three seniors were big contributors.

Natalie Day led the team with 13 points and ReZina TecleMariam added nine more along with three steals and 4 assists. NaKeisha Brown had four points and two steals, including a key jumper after half that sparked a run by the Pilots and put them up six.

With the loss, the Pilots grabbed the No. 7 seed in the WCC Tournament and play Santa Clara today at 2 p.m. in Las Vegas.

Day said her mindset doesn't change despite every game potentially being her last.

"Basically I am going to leave everything out there like I would every night," Day said.

The Pilots could find themselves having to finish at the end of a close game, an area they have struggled in recently. The last time they faced Santa Clara, they lost 70-71.

"We need to not make mistakes offensively at the end of the game," Sollars said. "In the last couple of games we have shot ourselves in the foot.

If the Pilots win, they'll have a chance to avenge their recent loss against USD.