The temperature in Springfield, Mass., was 45 degrees Tuesday
afternoon. Not the kind of Florida-like temperature most college
students prefer when they take a trip for spring break.
By Gary Larson
Mille Lacs County Times
Southwest Minnesota State photo
Scott Roehl drives against Northern State (S.D.) during a game earlier this season. Roehl and his Southwest Minnesota State University teammates are concluding their season at the Elite Eight tournament in Springfield, Mass., this week.
The temperature in Springfield, Mass., was 45 degrees Tuesday afternoon. Not the kind of Florida-like temperature most college students prefer when they take a trip for spring break.
But, for Scott Roehl, a 2006 Princeton graduate and the son of Milaca graduates Bruce and Connie (Wilken) Roehl, Springfield was the perfect spring destination.
It’s where the 2009 NCAA Division II Men’s Basketball Elite Eight Tournament is being played and Roehl and his Southwest Minnesota State University teammates figured that things would heat up plenty by Wednesday afternoon.
That’s when Southwest Minnesota State, which claimed the Central Region title and a berth in the Elite Eight by topping Augustana (S.D.) 73-60 March 17 on its home court in Marshall, was scheduled to face West Region champion Cal Poly Pomona in the quarterfinals of the tournament.
“I’m excited,” said Roehl, a 6-foot-7 sophomore forward/post. “We felt that if we worked hard and improved we could have a good season.”
The Mustangs won the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference regular-season title but then got stung by Northern State (S.D.) in the opening round of the conference postseason tournament.
Southwest bounced back from that loss in style. Seeded No. 1 in the Central Plains meet, the Mustangs avenged their loss to Northern by posting a 69-47 victory in the quarterfinals March 14. The Mustangs topped Minnesota State, Mankato 77-69 in the semifinals March 15 before trimming Augustana in the finals.
Roehl, who was red-shirted his first season at SMSU, stepped forward with his best games of the season in the tournament.
He scored 13 points and grabbed eight rebounds in the victory over Northern and had 13 points and five rebounds against Mankato. Roehl made six of seven shots from the field against Northern and five of eight against Mankato.
Against Augustana in the title game, he had four points and one rebound. Teammate Andy Beilke scored 25 against Augustana and was named the tournament’s outstanding player.
“Had Andy not had such a big game in the finals, Scott would’ve been a top candidate for the outstanding player honor,” said SMSU Head Coach Greg Stemen. “He’s had a fine season and he had a great regional tournament.
“Scott works hard on both ends of the floor in games and practice. He personifies the kind of team we have.”
Roehl wasn’t listed in the starting five for the Elite Eight opener against Cal Poly Pomona.
That’s because the Mustangs pretty much have 10 starters.
Stemen, in his eighth season as head coach, rotates two five-player lineups in and out of games, with all 10 players seeing about the same amount of playing time.
“That works great because we’ve got such great balance and the players really believe in coach Stemen’s system,” said Roehl. “Our players on the floor stay fresh and they’re able to go 100 percent all the time.
“Nobody really cares who gets the points or makes the big plays as long as somebody does. We have different players stepping up all the time.”
Ten different players have notched game-scoring honors during the Mustangs’ 28-6 run to the national tournament. Senior forward Ross Demasi’s 8.9 scoring average leads the team but 11 players are averaging two or more points per game. Roehl is averaging 5.4 points and 3.8 rebounds per game.
“Scott can sink the short and medium-range jumpers and he can wheel and drive to the basket,” said Stemen. “He came to Southwest with great work habits.”
Those habits were instilled by Princeton Coach Eric Bjurman. Roehl scored 1,330 points and had 760 rebounds at Princeton which both ranked No. 1 in Princeton’s boys record book until they were broken by 2008 graduate Jared Berggren who’s now at the University of Wisconsin.
“Scott works so hard and is so tenacious that I knew he’d do well at the college level,” said Bjurman. “It’s great to see him having so much success.”
“Coach Bjurman taught me a lot and gave me great advice before I left for college,” said Roehl, who’s majoring in sports management/business. “I’ve been fortunate to have great coaches and great teammates at Princeton and now at Southwest Minnesota State.”
So, how will the Mustangs fare in Springfield?
“We’re going with the attitude that we want more than to just be there,” said Roehl. “We’ll try to do what we’ve done all season.”
And, the best part of being on the SMSU team?
“Going to practice every day with a great bunch of teammates who want to work hard,” Roehl said.
Something that’s paid big dividends for him and the Mustangs.
Bruce and Connie Roehl traveled to Springfield, along with sons Tony and Travis. A fourth son, Tyler, is a sophomore at SMSU.
“We saw a lot of games the past couple of seasons,” said Bruce roehl. “They’ve been a fun team to watch and we’re very happy that’s Scott is where he’s at.”
In other quarterfinal games at the Elite Eight Wednesday, Augusta State (Ga.) faced Christian Brothers University (Tenn.), Central Missouri met Gannon (Pa.) and C.W. Post (N.Y.) faced Findlay (Ohio).
The semifinals are today (Thursday), with the Southwest-Cal Poly winner facing the Augusta-Christian Brothers winner at 5 p.m. and the other semifinal game to follow. Those games will be onCBS College Sports TV.
The title game is Saturday at noon on CBS TV. All games are being played at the MassMutual Center in Springfield.