Junior forward John Hatch, who was named the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference’s defensive player of the year last week, sums up the recently completed men’s season.
After a fiercely competitive playoff game against Texas Lutheran University this past Saturday, the men’s basketball season came to an end. Hatch, who played nearly every minute of every game this entire season and who was named Defensive Player of the Year for the SCAC, gives a summary of the team’s season and their final game.
Samantha Gilbert: How did the game against Texas Lutheran go versus your expectation?
John Hatch: We were really prepared and we knew all their plays, but our shots just didn’t go in. That’s just kind of how it goes. We were down by one with four minutes left, so it was a very close game. But in the last few minutes, five possessions in a row, we missed our shots and they made their shots, and that’s what it came down to. It really could have gone either way.
SG: What was the level of play like?
JH: Both teams were relaxed on the court because we had played against each other many times before. The players that played in the games were either seniors or juniors, so we all knew each other and knew we just had to go out there and get it done. It still felt like a playoff game, but no one was freaking out.
SG: Do you think because you guys had already beaten them at home and on the road, that they were a little bit hungrier?
JH: No. Playoffs are a do-or-die situation so everyone is giving their absolute best. If they had any more motivation, it was because they were seniors and that could have been their last game. It had to do more with the X’s and O’s of the game itself, not our desire, because I think we had just as much fire for winning.
SG: You guys had been battling injuries all season. Was that still in effect for this playoff game?
JH: Not really. The only person we really had out was [junior guard] Bobby Roth. Everybody else we had, so injuries didn’t have much of an effect other than getting playing time together prior to playoffs.
SG: What was it like being a main team leader/role model this year?
JH: I thought it was a great experience, and I learned a lot. It makes me excited for next year because I’m full of ideas and there’s definitely things I want to get better at. I just love our guys. They are a great group of people. I love spending time with them, and usually if there’s something our team wants to say, [junior guard] Eric Houska or I say it. That responsibility is something I don’t take lightly because it’s important that our guys be represented well.
SG: Do you think having a senior basketball house on Yampa will impact the season next year?
JH: In a very positive way, yes. We will be even more of a family unit.
SG: So you were named Defensive Player of the Year in the SCAC—that’s big! What do you attribute that to?
JH: Kevin Cronin [Strength and Conditioning Head Coach] has definitely made me stronger, so I give him a bunch of that credit. He’s the boss. Also, I’ve wanted to be the defensive anchor for our team. I want our players to know that if they get beat, I’ll be there to help them. And that helps our team confidence to know that you can guard your guy as hard as you can and no matter what we’ve got your back, and specifically, I’ve got your back. I’m more proud of that than any offensive individual award because defense is what ends up winning championships. It’s cliché, but it’s true. I’m proud of it because it helps our team, not just me.
SG: What was the most noticeable change this season from beginning to end?
JH: Our resilience. In the beginning of the season, we didn’t really know who we were, and if we got into a hole in the beginning of a game, we wouldn’t be able to bounce back. Towards the end of this year, especially in conference, we found a way to keep every game close and competitive.
SG: What are some team goals moving forward?
JH: Our team goal next year is to win the conference championship—that is first and foremost. For now though, the goal is to get better as a team. We have a week of rest and then we’ve got to get back into working hard which means working out, playing pickup, staying in shape, and making sure we are ready for next season.
SG: Is the team excited to have some time off or are you guys ready to get back to work?
JH: I’m only taking days off because I was banned from the training room. But I think the team will enjoy the week off. We’ve been grinding since mid-October, so it’s nice to have a few days to sit and chill out and not do anything. But in a few days we’ll be ready to go again.