West Windsor, N.J. – With only one player returning from last year’s men’s basketball team, Head Coach Howard Levy faced the 2013-14 season with some uncertainty about the team’s prospects. Fortunately, it did not take long for new team members to gel and get the season going on a strong note. By winter break, the Vikings were 9-5.
The picture changed somewhat in January as the Vikings were forced to adjust to the loss of three players from the roster, which reduced their numbers to six. Despite this setback, they began to play some of their best basketball towards the end of the season. Their late February run qualified them for the Region 19 Tournament.
Entering the tournament as the #7 seed, the Vikings traveled to the #3-seed Del Tech Stanton for the opening round on Feb. 24. Earlier in February, the Vikings had lost to Del Tech by 30 points (88-58). But on this night, the men forgot all about that game and held on to beat Del Tech 74-73 on its home court for an upset win.
Coach Levy notes that the playoff win at Del Tech was one of the best moments of the season. “It was particularly rewarding, given how badly they had beaten us just two weeks before. I was proud of the way the players stuck with the game plan and showed character and toughness to beat a good team on the road to extend our season,” he said.
With the win, the Vikings advanced to the Region 19 Final Four, facing the #2-seed Raritan at Brookdale in the semifinal round. (Raritan had beaten Mercer in both regular season games.) While the Vikings were just one point behind at halftime, the Golden Lions opened up the second half with a big run, going up by double digits. The Vikings ran out of time to catch up and fell 71-62.
Still, Coach Levy is gratified that his team made it to the semifinal round, noting that this is the fourth time in five years that Mercer has made it to the semifinal round of the tournament.
Two team leaders this season were freshman guards David Johnson and Dashante Alexander, both of whom were named to the Second Team All Garden State Athletic Conference. Johnson led the Vikings in scoring, averaging 13.1 points and 3.7 rebounds per game; Alexander averaged 11.1 points and 3.2 assists per game. Freshman forward Dandre Parmley also had a strong rookie year, averaging 12.0 points and 5.1 rebounds per game.
Mercer also had some strong play from three sophomores. Michael Douglas, who showed tremendous progress since he played for the Vikings in 2008-2009, finished the season averaging 7.8 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game. Kevin Allison also showed significant improvement since last season, going from the Vikings’ 6th man to a starter this season and averaging 7.1 points and 3.2 rebounds per game. The Vikings also got a boost from Jonathan Perry, who became eligible to play in January and averaged 7.6 points and 3.9 rebounds per game.