Everything clicked for the Schreiner University men’s basketball team for the first time this season — one with huge expectations. It clicked so well that the Mountaineers find themselves in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference championship on Sunday.
Schreiner University stunned top-seeded St. Thomas on Saturday with a stirring 65-64 victory. St. Thomas entered the SCAC semifinals with a 16-game conference winning streak and a No. 12 national ranking, but they had no answers for the Mountaineers.
The victory puts the Mountaineers into the 2 p.m. Sunday title game against host Trinity. It’s the first SCAC title game appearance for the Mountaineers since 2018, when Schreiner topped Centenary for an NCAA Division III tournament trip. The game is free.
“These seniors get to play on a Sunday,” said a beaming Schreiner University coach Marwan Elrakwaby. “You know Alex Dehoyos has never played on a Sunday.”
The Mountaineers will face Trinity for a third time this season, but this time with an NCAA tournament berth on the line. Schreiner has lost eight consecutive games to Trinity since 2021.
It was the tenacious Dehoyos, playing a fifth-year, who emerged as the Mountaineers’ emotional center — scoring a team-high 17 points, shooting 70% on the night and hitting a pair of clutch 3-pointers in the second half.
In an up-and-down season, the Mountaineers are on an upward swing with wins over teams that swept them in the regular season. But the Mountaineers have broken through thanks to the play of their veterans.
Schreiner also has a pretty good backcourt. Elrakawaby has experimented with different starting lineups all season. However, the starting five of Darian Gibson, Dehoyos, Beau Cervantes, Dylan Mackey and Kamden Ross proved to be the right mix. Mackey scored 10, Cervantes scored 14, and Ross added 13 before fouling out with three minutes remaining.
From the start Saturday, the Mountaineers set the tone by jumping out to a 9-0 lead. Like his previous two games, Ross seemed unstoppable, but St. Thomas frequently doubled down on the sophomore post. Ross’ presence, however, let the Mountaineers’ backcourt run wild around the perimeter — hitting eight 3-pointers.
Still, St. Thomas battled back throughout. St. Thomas didn’t get a lead until 3:09 left in the game when Ross received his fifth foul — on an iffy call. The Celts held a 62-61 lead, but the Mountaineers would make a play whenever they looked like St. Thomas might extend its lead.
With Ross out, Elrakawaby turned to Cristian Rodriguez, who got a key block and a charging call that wiped out a St.Thomas possession in the closing seconds.
But when the Mountaineers needed it most, Dehoyos delivered. Trailing 62-61, Dehoyos attacked the lane and scored to put the Mountaineers on top 63-62 with 1:47 left.
Then it was Mackey’s turn, and he hit a shot in the lane with 58 seconds left. All Schreiner had to do was hold. St. Thomas had looks but couldn’t convert other than a last-second put back that cut the lead to 65-64 as time expired.