It felt like basketball weather on a crisp 50 degree afternoon in Peoria last Saturday as the men’s and women’s basketball teams invited fans into the Renaissance Coliseum for their annual Red-White Scrimmage.
The women tipped-off first and played two 10-minute halves. The White team notched a 34-31 victory, led by senior Shunseere Kent, who finished with a team-high 12 points.
“[Kent’s] gotten a lot stronger in the off-season,” head coach Andrea Gorski said. “Obviously, she’s one of our most dynamic scorers. She can hit the three, get to the basket, her mid-range is unstoppable, and it’s her senior season so she’s letting it all loose out there.”
The Braves also got solid contributions from their six newly added freshmen. Aannah Interrante scored eight points off the bench including a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:33 left in the game.
“[I’m] glad our newcomers didn’t show a lot of nerves, so they just came out shooting and playing and that was good to see,” Gorski said. “I think after two weeks of practice I’m pretty excited with the tempo we played. I like how we just played a little loose, we spread the ball [around] and had a lot of different scorers, so that’s an indication of what’s to come this season.”
The men’s team played their scrimmage in two six-minute halves. The White team also came out with a closely contested 31-28 victory led by sophomore Elijah Childs and junior Nate Kennell, who each scored 10 points.
“[Childs’] body is stronger. He’s more confident in the system, and he’s getting back to knowing the five,” head coach Brian Wardle said. “His jump shot has come a long way; he’s very comfortable in the post. I think he’s just going to get better and better too.”
Childs said he plans on stepping into the shoes of Donte Thomas, who graduated in May, and will have a bigger role in the offense this season. He showed off his extended range on Saturday shooting 4-8 from the field and knocking down a tough three in the corner.
“I think I’m a big part of the offense this year and I’ve got to show what I can do,” Childs said. “We’re going to be scary to deal with; we’re going to be hard to guard. This is going to be a fun year for us. We’re ready to get going and we showed a little bit of it today.”
Junior Antoine Pittman also contributed seven points for the White team. Pittman was redshirted last season, but said he’s learned a lot during his year off and is ready to contribute again this season.
“The game has slowed down for me a lot, and I think that’s what helped me a lot,” Pittman said. “We’re picking up right where we left off last year. We’re coming in with a full head of steam.”
The most noticeable absence of the day was the 7-foot-1-inch freshman from Cameroon, Ari Boya. Boya fractured his ankle in practice and will miss 10-12 weeks, a timeframe Wardle hopes should bring him back for the conference season.
Senior forward Luuk van Bree also sat out with a shin injury. Wardle says the team hopes to have him back for the exhibition game.
“I think one of our biggest strengths coming into the year is our depth, so whenever you have some injuries, you just have to manage them. It’s part of basketball,” Wardle said. “You’ve got to find a way to adapt and adjust and find the right lineups and right matchups for every game, and I think we still have enough depth and versatility to be able to do that.”
The men’s team will start their season with an exhibition contest against Carroll University on Nov. 1, before their home opener versus UW-Parkside on Nov. 7. The women’s team will host their exhibition against Quincy University on Nov. 3 before opening with Southeast Missouri State on Nov. 10.