The Emory University men’s and women’s basketball teams competed in the first round of the NCAA Division III Basketball Championships on March 3. The men played on the road against Hampden-Sydney College (Va.), while the women faced Millikin University (Ill.). Both the men’s and women’s teams lost, which brought an end to each of their respective seasons.

Freshman guard Jair Knight attempts a contested layup against the University of Chicago on Jan. 27. (Natalie Sandlow/Staff) 

Men earn tenth consecutive tournament trip

While the Eagles began slow and trailed 25-14 early in the first half of their game against Hampden-Sydney, they persevered and ended the half on a 15-4 run. Sophomore forward Cale Martens tied the game for the Eagles 29-29 before Hampden-Sydney scored a clutch jump shot setting up a two-point lead by the Tigers at halftime.

The Eagles and the Tigers narrowly battled it out in the second half. The final 20 minutes saw eight lead changes and six ties. With 12:33 until the final buzzer, sophomore forward Logan Shanahan and sophomore guard Albert Fallas made key three pointers that hoisted the Eagles to their first lead of the game.

Unfortunately, Emory lost the lead as the Tigers went up 61-58 with just under three minutes to play. Though the men’s team put up a diligent effort, they lost to Hampden-Sydney 63-59. Despite the loss, freshmen guard Benjamin Pearce led both teams in scoring with 19 points.

Although Martens believes the team could have gone deeper in the tournament, he said that his teammates will use the loss to work harder in the offseason. 

“We had a chance to go a little farther than we did, but at the end of the day, we did everything we could,” Martens said. “We played our best and that’s all you can really ask for.”

Head coach Jason Zimmerman agreed with Martens that the first round loss was an unsatisfactory ending to the season. Despite the loss, Zimmerman noted many positives to the season, which included young players’ abilities to adapt in their new roles and maintain the team’s high standard.

“We had a very productive year and we grew tremendously throughout the year with a lot of new roles,” Zimmerman said. “I think it’s [a season] that we’ll look back with great joy, but right now it’s really hard.”

Martens also thought that the team gained important experience this season.

“I’m overall proud with how we played and I think there’s definitely room for improvement,” Martens said. “Obviously it didn’t end the way we hoped it would, but overall, it’s a really good season and I’m excited for next year.”

The Eagles’ tenth consecutive appearance in the tournament is the longest active streak in D-III basketball. The team finished the 2022-2023 season 17-9 overall and Zimmerman said that by reflecting on the season, the team will only “continue to get better.” 

Sophomore guard Daniella Aronsky drives to the left against Carnegie Mellon University on Jan. 13. (Natalie Sandlow/Staff)

Women make first tournament appearance since 2019

The women came up short in their first round matchup against Millikin. During the second quarter, the women held  a 17-15 lead. However, they were unable to maintain it as the Big Blue went into the locker room at halftime up 43-33 over the Eagles.   

Coming out of halftime, Emory went on a 10-point run and tied the game at 43-43. However, they lost momentum at the end of the third quarter with Millikin heading into the final 10 minutes with a 56-50 lead over Emory. The Eagles put forth their best effort, but were unable to overcome the deficit, falling to Big Blue 76-70 at the final buzzer.

Although the Eagles held Millikin to 42.4 % shooting overall, the defensive effort was not enough as Millikin shot 66.7% from the free throw line and forced 17 turnovers. Emory forced 14 turnovers, but struggled to score key points off of them. Sophomore guard Daniella Aronsky led the Eagles with 19 points and four assists, while fellow sophomore forward Morgan Laudick contributed 13 points. Freshman guard Lily Kennedy added a spark off the bench, putting away nine points and grabbing six rebounds for the Eagles.

 Despite their loss, the women’s team has much to celebrate, as this was their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2019. Head coach Misha Jackson said that one of the team’s main goals is to make consecutive tournament appearances.

“It’s really hard when you haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament to replicate it,” Jackson said. “We experienced that four years ago, but none of these players were on that team. I think the more people that you’ve had that have been there, the easier that gets.”

Jackson said that the team worked hard to win in difficult moments, including important wins away at the University of Chicago (Ill.) and University of Rochester (N.Y.) in February that helped the team earn a bid to the tournament. Jackson said that she is “really excited for the future.”

“I know this team is capable of a lot more,” Jackson said. “But, looking from the outside in, we’re an extremely young team. On paper, I don’t think people were expecting us to achieve as much as we did.” 

The Eagles finished their season with a 17-8 record overall. Jackson said that the team grew tremendously this season, and they are motivated to make another tournament appearance next year.

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Madeline Shapiro (she/her) (26C) is from Stamford, Connecticut and is planning on majoring in creative writing and classic civilizations. She enjoys playing low-stakes games of soccer and spending time outdoors, as well as watching as many Premier League games as possible.

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Sophia Lin-David (she/her) (24Ox) is from Boston, Massachusetts and plans to major in political science and strategy and management consulting across the College and Goizueta Business School. Outside of the Wheel, Sophia plays cello in the Emory University Symphony Orchestra and is an ambassador for the EmoryVotes initiative. Additionally, Sophia enjoys running outdoors and supporting the Boston Celtics.