Stephens looks for tournament breakthrough

Friday, December 1, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 9:23 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

There’s something special about winning a basketball tournament. Stringing together consecutive wins in a hostile environment can do amazing things for a team’s confidence, and traveling as a unit can provide a catalyst for that elusive meshing of personalities known as team chemistry.

Since its reinstatement in 2003, the Stephens basketball team has ended up on the consolation side of every tournament it has entered. It’s not lost on coach Dane Pavlovich, who reminds the Stars before each tournament of their opportunity to enter the Stephens record book.

“Every single time we get into a tournament situation, we have an opportunity to do something that Stephens has never done,” he said. “I want to coach the team that wins the first tournament since the re-invention of Stephens basketball.”

Pavlovich said that re-invention is a process the team is still undergoing, one that the tournament environment can help expeidate.

“It’s really an opportunity to take our growing program and put it against teams we’re not going to see every day,” Pavlovich said.

The Stars will have another one of those opportunities today as they escape Columbia’s dismal weather to travel to Milwaukee, Wis., where sunny skies and temperatures in the mid 30s are expected for the Cardinal Stritch tournament.

While Pavlovich called the 8-hour bus ride “daunting,” he said the tournament’s distance from home presented the young program with a chance to branch out.

“It’s a chance to get out and represent Stephens on a more national level,” Pavlovich said. “It’s a measuring stick of where we are now and where we want to go.”

Stephens’ schedule features just three games outside Missouri and Kansas, and the team’s 470-mile trip is the longest of the season.

This weekend, the draw includes Cardinal Stritch, Finlandia, and Viterbo, and while the schools are anything but household names, the Stars should expect at least one high-quality opponent.

Cardinal Stritch, the tournament’s host, defeated No. 25 Columbia College 79-70 on Nov. 17.

The team has had one shot at winning its first tournament this season, but a 95-56 drubbing at the hands of Midway College ended the Stars’ hopes of winning the Days Inn Tip Off Tournament, which Stephens hosted Nov. 17-18. Pavlovich said the missed opportunity hurt his squad’s confidence.

“We talked about it before our tournament, but unfortunately we didn’t win the first game, so we didn’t put ourselves in position to do that.”

Though Pavlovich said his team is focused on winning both games in Milwaukee, he said the Stars will also use the time together as an opportunity to experience the ups and downs of life on the road as a team.

“When you travel together, it does nothing but create team chemistry and unity,” he said. “You can kind of complain together during the trip, or you can laugh together and bond, and it’s important that we keep that idea in mind.

“We need to use this trip to learn about one another and continue to grow.”

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