SIOUX CITY – Jim Sykes knew something had to change.
After two years of failing to make the national tournament the Morningside men’s basketball coach put it all out in front of his young team after its season concluded last year with a loss to rival Briar Cliff.
“I knew we could continue to do what we were doing and continue to have the results,” Sykes said. “If you do the same thing over and over and expect different results that is the definition of insanity. Something had to change and either we would tell them what that was or they would figure it out on their own.
“They needed to be in the gym, they needed to be in the weight room, they needed to spend time on the floor getting to know each other. We can talk about a lot of things and talk is pretty cheap obviously, it is about getting out and doing it. It is going to be time consuming but it is also going to be a lot of fun.”
The hard work has led to a lot of fun on the basketball court as the Mustangs won the GPAC regular season and tournament titles and are back in the national tournament as a second seed. Morningside (26-6) will face seventh-seeded Trinity International (21-10) in the first round Thursday at 1:45 p.m. at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls.
The Mustangs are making their sixth trip to nationals in program history with a 5-5 record in their previous five trips.
It is a relatively young team without a senior on the roster that appears to have aced the always tricky formula of team chemistry.
Guards Alex Borchers, Brody Egger and Zach Imig and center Tyler Borchers have been in the starting lineup all season while Matthew Hahn was inserted there for the final 10 games, a stretch the Mustangs have gone 9-1.
“They came together defensively, not that we were perfect defensively, but I thought they did a good job of making sure that was a priority,” Sykes said. “Anytime we were able to defend at a high level the scoreboard showed it. We score at a high level and as long as we push our defense to drive our offense that is when we are at our best.”
Sykes calls this team perhaps his most unselfish in his 15th season at the helm and the stats support that. Egger, a career 1,000-point scorer, paces the team at 15.4 points a game and Tyler Borchers is right behind at 15.0. Alex Borchers is at 12.7 and Imig, a freshman is at 12.3. Both Borchers, a pair of sophomores, and Egger, a junior, were first-team All-GPAC selections.
“From Day 1 our goal is for Moriningside to be successful and it doesn’t matter how we get to that end, it is just what we need to do each day,” said Sykes, the GPAC Coach of the Year. “For guys whose roles have changed, whether it is increased as far as playing time or maybe it has decreased, they are still great teammates and that speaks a lot about them as people.
“They did a good job of policing themselves as far as what was being done on the court, and I really think we did a good job of putting team first and cared more about what the scoreboard said for Morningside than what it said for individuals and that is a big step.”
Both Alex and Tyler Borchers are local products with the former coming from South Sioux City and the latter from Le Mars. They have both played key roles in the team’s success after some growing pains in the first year.
“They both came in last year and Alex was in a tough situation where he had to run our team after taking a year off basketball,” Sykes said. “Tyler played a big role for us off the bench. He was good enough to be a starter but we brought him off the bench to give us a little different look.”
They will now help the entire Mustang roster get its first taste of national tournament action.
“We played a tough schedule and that started with Bellevue which was No. 4 in the nation and I think they are going to mimic the team we play in Trinity a little bit,” Sykes said. “If we can handle the basketball we should be fine, but Briar Cliff was at the national tournament last year, Northwestern, Dakota Wesleyan their kids know what it is like in that moment, our guys haven’t been there.”
O’Shae Williams, a junior guard, is the Trojans’ leading scorer and rebounder with averages of 17.2 points and 6.1 rebounds per game for a squad that reached the quarterfinals a year ago.