Thiel men's basketball making another run

| Thursday, Dec. 29, 2011

Two seasons removed from a 2-23 disaster, it might seem logical for Thiel men's basketball coach Tim Loomis to crow about last year's Presidents' Athletic Conference regular season title.

It would be an incorrect assumption.

While Loomis acknowledges how important last season was to the program's resurgence, the Tomcats' upset loss to third-seeded Bethany in the PAC championship game — snatching the conference's automatic NCAA Division III bid away from Thiel — left the fifth-year coach with a bitter taste in the offseason.

"I think last year, we kind of established a winning mentality after many years of losing at Thiel," said Loomis, who led the Tomcats to a 20-7 record, along with their first PAC final appearance since 2003. "That was all well and good, but it was a disappointing year because we didn't get to the NCAA Tournament. Our goal this year is to get to the NCAA Tournament, and I think we have the maturity to do it."

Thiel has looked like a team on a mission this season, winning seven of its first nine games, including all four in PAC play.

Most of last year's offensive output has returned, and Thiel leads the conference in rebounding (39.6 per game), assists (16.0 per game) and shooting percentage (.486).

Thiel will play host Wooster to open the "Mose" Hole/Kiwanis Classic tonight and have three more games before a Jan. 11 date with Bethany, which upset the host Tomcats, 74-67, in last season's tournament title game, forcing the top seed to wait for an at-large bid that never materialized.

Junior combo guard Blair Rozenblad leads four double-digit scorers with 17.1 points per game, ranking third in the PAC. His 9.1 rebounds per game lead the conference. New Castle graduate Anthony Harvey, a transfer from Division II Clarion, is averaging 11.1 points per game, and guard Devon Adams is dishing out a PAC-best 4.38 assists per game.

"There were no excuses last year; we should have done it," Loomis said. "It's just up to the players this year to see how much more they can mature and handle the whole situation."

Life beyond hoops

Three years ago, Plum graduate Emily Anderson figured to be the long-term solution at point guard for the Point Park women's basketball team.

That was until a few days after Valentine's Day in 2009, when Anderson learned she had obstructive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a potentially fatal heart condition defined by extraordinary thickening of the heart muscles.

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, it is the leading cause of death in young athletes; the heart is unknowingly under more stress than it's capable of handling.

Forced into early retirement, Anderson has been the team's manager for the past three seasons, filling water bottles and collecting towels in order to stay around the game she loves.

"I had a really tough time with not playing, and I still do," Anderson said.

Anderson does all she can to stay active. When the team conditions, Anderson lifts with them, sticking to her light-weight, high-rep workout — her heart rate can't exceed 120 beats per minute — and she does some minor elliptical and abdominal work.

The intelligence and national security major was able to keep most of her scholarship and has re-channeled her energy into her schoolwork. After graduation, Anderson hopes to work for the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

"I'm happy I get to see it through," Anderson said. "I would have felt like a quitter if I just gave up on it and walked away from it completely."

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