Southland Conference tournament placement and the accomplishments of seniors were major themes at Monday's regular Bearbackers luncheon.
With a victory over Abilene Christian on Saturday, the University of Central Arkansas men moved into seventh place in the SLC in the scrap for one of eight spots into the postseason tournament. The Sugar Bears, with the win over ACU, clinched the third seed in the women's tournament.
Both teams have games remaining with Sam Houston State and Northwestern State. Senior Day is Saturday afternoon at the Farris Center.
After a 97-62 loss to Stephen F. Austin last Wednesday, UCA coach Russ Pennell called his father (Dewey), a 40-year coaching veteran, for advice after what the described as a "stinker of a game."
With the game at Abilene looming, his father told him to not mention the SFA game, to not even watch the video. He advised him to not spend time on a game that had all negatives.
"But I'm mad at them," Pennell said he told his dad.
But after a night's sleep, Pennell took his Dad's approach to ignore the previous game.
"All I told them was that I didn't recognize the team on the court at UCA," he said.
The Bears won, 74-72, on a last second putback by Thatch Unruh after rallying with five stops against the Wildcats on their last six trips down the court, including four in a row. Hayden Koval blocked two shots during the comeback.
"We played very well against Abilene," Pennell said. "We won the game, we lost the game, we won the game, we lost the game, then we found a way to win it in the end."
Saturday will be the final home game for seniors Jordan Howard, Ethan Lee and Mathieu Kamba.
Against Abilene, Howard solidified his place as one of the greatest college players in state history. He has passed Pat Bradley's state Division I college 3-point record with 370. Bradley had 366. He is seven points away for former Razorback Todd Day's all-time state Division I college scoring record at 2,396.
"Senior Day will be bittersweet," said Pennell, who took over a program four years ago that was at one of the lowest points ever and on academic probation.
"I can't put into words how difficult these 3 1/2 years have been our the players, our coaches and myself," he said. "But we reached a point in time we were destined to be and with took something and made it better. We're still climbing the mountain. These players came in as freshmen and got the brains beat out of them because they were not physically ready.
"But they never got down and kept working. And they have set a standard that we expect Central Arkansas teams to live up to in the future."
The UCA women close the regular season against Sam Houston and NSU, which are at the bottom of the league.
"You worry about motivation," coach Sandra Rushing said. "You want to build momentum going into the conference tournament. We have to play our own game. we can't take anyone for granted."
Saturday will be the final home game for seniors Taylor Baudoin, Kierra Jordan and Angel Williams.
"These seniors have won a lot of games and two conference championships and two NCAA tourney appearances," Rushing said. "We're still chasing things.
"Kierra has been an absolute beast in the paint for us. Taylor can play inside and outside. Angel can shoot the ball and has been the defensive stopper for us. KJ (Jordan) has already graduated but came back to play for another championship. The other two will also graduate."
Rushing is optimistic about challenging for a third straight SLC tourney championship and NCAA berth.
"We can win the championship but we have to buckle down," she said. "But we can do this."