Justin Diggles wanted to go out with a bang, and so far, he’s accomplished that.
The senior guard hit the 1000-point career mark Saturday against Sterling, putting him on a list of only 15 players in history to do so. Now he looks forward to completing his two other goals: becoming an All-American and making it to the national tournament.
To accomplish the last, the men’s basketball team has to focus on one game at a time. They travel to Newton to face ninth-placed Bethel College at 8 p.m. Thursday before heading into Saturday’s home game against McPherson College, who is currently second.
Bethel is 3-9 and has already suffered a decisive loss to SC. The Builders topped them 72-46 Dec. 12 in the first round of conference play.
“Our focus is going to be one game at a time,” Matt O’Brien, head coach, said. “If we can beat McPherson and get on a roll here, I think we have a shot at second place.”
McPherson is currently three games ahead of Southwestern with a record of 10-2. The last time the two matched up was Jan. 7, when the Builders limped away with an 89-66 loss.
“We can’t just not take Bethel serious,” Diggles said, “but I think we really have to win Saturday. We have to win the smaller games, but we really need to win Saturday.”
If the men lose, it almost certainly guarantees that they will be stuck in at least fourth place when the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament rolls around, but Diggles said if the team learns to play at the level he knows they can, getting to nationals won’t be a problem.
“I’m just out there having fun,” he said. “We’re not gonna go down without a fight. We’re in third place. We can still make it to nationals. When we’re all on the same page, it’s fun to watch and it’s fun to play.”
The men stopped a two-game losing streak Jan. 30 in a road win against Sterling College. They had 53 second-half points in the victory against the Warriors.
“I felt like it was going to be a tough game because of the environment,” said O’Brien. “We were able to bounce back against Sterling.”
Diggles led the men with 18 points, and Marcus Batiste, senior forward and Jason McCormack, senior guard, had 13 each.
The men lost 74-71 Jan. 28 against first-placed Friends University in Stewart Field House.
Down by two points with less than 20 seconds to go, Diggles found himself in familiar territory. The ball, and game, was in his hands. But, unlike previous games, luck just didn’t go his way. The ball was stolen from him and Nick Onello, freshman guard for the Falcons, was fouled with 1.4 seconds left. He hit the second of two free throws, and the Builders retained possession with one last chance.
Batiste put up a desperate three-point shot while being double-teamed, but it was a no go, and the buzzer sounded for the Builder’s second-straight conference loss.
The men dropped to a 6-5 in the conference a tie for fourth place with Bethany College. They shot 31 for 60 from the field, and had only five free throw attempts for the entire game, compared to 19 for Friends.
The men were led by Batiste with 20 points and six rebounds. Diggles had 19 points.