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March 04. 2014 8:41PM

Once again, St. Anselm basketball team is rising to the top

It shouldn’t be the case, but it seems many basketball followers take for granted what the St. Anselm College men’s basketball program has accomplished over the last 28 seasons under head coach Keith Dickson.

Dickson’s program has produced 13 teams that have earned NCAA Division II national tournament bids, one making an Elite Eight appearance 2000. His teams have registered 19 winning seasons over the last 22 years. Dickson has coached 13 teams to 20-win seasons and his program has never gone more than three years without qualifying for an NCAA berth.

The success Dickson and the Hawks have had in the post-season has largely been because of their winning ways in the Northeast-10 tournament.

Today at 7 p.m. at Stoutenburgh Gym in Goffstown, the Hawks will look to secure an NE-10 tourney championship berth for the 11th time in school history. St. Anselm will host the University of New Haven in a semifinal.

“It’s not an accident or a fluke, we’ve always performed admirably in the post-season and we take pride in that,” said Dickson.

The Hawks rank second all-time in NE-10 tournament appearances with 31 and ranked first in wins (42), semifinal appearances (19), championship game appearances (10) and titles won with seven (all under Dickson).

Dickson gave some insight as to what he looks for from his teams during the post-season.

“After a long and grinding regular season, you want to put your team in position of playing their best in the post-season,” said Dickson. “You want your team playing with confidence, healthy and in shape. You’re now at the point in the year when you’re playing three short game seasons. So much of it is really the mindset of your team. Are you confident? Are you not tight? Are you not nervous?

“You have to have an incredible will to win. There’s no shame in not winning the league title, but at the same time, the reward in winning one is so great. I think the world of the group of players I have this year and I want them to experience the feeling of winning the tournament title. Having said that, we know we’ve got our hands full against a very good New Haven team.”

The Chargers were impressive last Sunday, beating a talented St. Michael’s team, 83-65. All five starters for New Haven finished the game in double-digit scoring, led by two-time NE-10 Defensive Player of the Year Eric Anderson. Only a junior, Anderson tallied 19 points and hauled in 19 rebounds against the Purple Knights.

“He’s going to get his share of rebounds on the defensive end, but we’ve got to get a body on him on the offensive glass,” said Dickson. “New Haven did a terrific job making a very good St. Michael’s team play poorly last Sunday and there’s a good reason for that. They’re the top defensive team in the league right now. They hang their hat on defense and we’ve got to play well offensively, find ways of scoring around the rim.”

St. Anselm defeated New Haven on the road, 85-83 in overtime on Jan. 8. Mike McCahey netted 25 points, including the winning shot at the buzzer. He also had 13 rebounds. Roy Mabrey, McCahey. Chris Santo and John Nielsen will look to attack New Haven’s defense behind their up-tempo game.

New Haven and the Hawks were picked in the pre-season to win their respective divisions in the regular season.

New Haven (20-7 overall, 14-6 NE-10) finished second in the Southwest Division and the Hawks (20-6, 17-4) won the Northeast Division crown.

Still, St. Anselm’s 79-78 nailbiting quarterfinal home win against Bentley University last Sunday serves as a reminder that records and predictions mean very little during the post-season.

“Bentley had a chance to put that game away and their miscue gave us another opportunity,” said Dickson. “They end up going home for the season and we end up moving on. Most of these tournament games are eventually decided on a couple of plays and we had the good fortune of having one go our way last Sunday.”

jhabib@unionleader.com


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