Missed opportunities end men’s basketball season


Senior John Gremlich lead St. Edward’s with 21 points in the Heartland Conference Tournament. The Hilltoppers would fall 81-76 to Arkansas- Fort Smith in the quarterfinals.

Missed opportunities cost the St. Edward’s University men’s basketball team a chance to advance in the Heartland Conference Tournament. The quarterfinal loss ended the Hilltoppers’ season.

The No. 6 Hilltoppers finished their season with an overall 17-15 record after losing 81-76 to No. 3 University of Arkansas-Fort Smith March 3.

“We had opportunities. We had opportunities to make that big shot or … expand the lead,” Head Coach Andre Cook said. “I just felt like we could never really get our hands on the game.”

In the final game of his collegiate career, senior shooting guard John Gramlich led the Hilltoppers with 21 points.

Neither team scored in the first three minutes, as the first half featured eight lead changes, as Fort Smith garnered a 36-30 lead at halftime.

“At times we were stagnant on offense, particularly in the first half,” Cook said. “That hurt us.”

The second half was better offensively for both teams. With 15:48 remaining, Fort Smith went on a 7-2 run that left St. Edward’s trailing 54-47.

“I thought that every time, in the second half, that we had a chance to grab the game and gain control, we either didn’t make the shot or maybe made mental mistakes.”

In the final few minutes, St. Edward’s cut a 10-point lead to only one point. With 3:45 left, Fort Smith led 72-71. However, the Hilltoppers would miss five three-pointers that would help Fort Smith to a final 81-76 score.

“We’ve been average at best on defense all year,” Cook said, adding that the team’s defense in the final game was just “OK.”

Once the game ended and the Hilltoppers walked off the court, three seniors Gramlich, shooting guard Ramir Burton and forward Ethan Gilbert had their chance to say a final farewell to their teammates.

Both Gramlich and Burton reached over 1,000 career points throughout their four years at St. Edward’s.

“They are fantastic players,” Cook said about his graduating class. “They represent what is right about St. Edward’s.”

For the last 21 years, Cook has been coaching, he’s had to say goodbye to seniors while emotions are raw, and seniors have the chance to say what is “on their minds and hearts.”

“And then we start talking about next year,” Cook said. “Because once those seniors walk out the door, we’ve got to start looking at ’17-’18. That’s the cruel reality of what I do. It never stops. We start talking about things that need to get fixed immediately.”

In a few weeks, the returning players will start practicing on the court, and Cook is looking to see new leaders emerge during the offseason to help get the program to where it needs to be.