By Justin Zackal
There are three teams tied atop the PAC standings a third of the way into the men’s basketball season with identical 5-1 records (9-4 overall):
Saint Vincent, the four-time reigning champion.
Thomas More, a finalist last year and the 2016-17 preseason favorite.
Then there’s Westminster. Well, what do we make of the Titans and do they belong in the upper echelon of the league?
“I think so,” said Westminster head coach Kevin Siroki. “We haven’t been up there in a long time. But as you see through the parity of the conference already, anyone can beat anyone. We’re happy to be where we’re at, but it’s not the end of the season and we have to keep battling.”
He’s right about the parity. Just look at what the Titans did against two 3-3 teams. Westminster’s one PAC loss was at home to Thiel, 101-68, on Nov. 30, then the Titans won big at Bethany, 83-58, on Dec. 19. (By the way, Bethany won by three at home to Thiel last Saturday.)
According to Westminster junior forward Deontay Scott, in his interview with the PAC Sports Network’s Donny Chedrick, Siroki told his players that the Titans’ home game vs. Thomas More last Thursday was a “statement” game. Westminster won 74-72 behind Scott’s 20 points on 10-of-11 shooting from the field.
Scott averages 14 points per game and leads the PAC with a .689 shooting percentage. Five other Titans are averaging between 7.3 and 11.7 points per game.
“The guys are just playing together,” Siroki said. “They’re getting the ball to the right guys at the right spots, and more than anything we’re playing strong defense.”
Westminster held off Waynesburg, 58-52, at home Saturday, the third time the Titans limited a PAC team to fewer than 60 points this season. (Westminster allows 70.4 points per game.)
Siroki is gaining the momentum to propel the Westminster program forward in his fifth season. He spent the previous decade coaching at two universities in Belize, Central America, as well as the Belize National Team. He guided Belize to a second-place finish at the 2009 COCABA Championships, a pre-Olympic qualifying tournament, which was the furthest a Belize team advanced before its was eliminated from Olympic consideration at the 2010 Centrobasket tournament, two steps away from the 2012 London Olympics.
After the COCABA tournament, his team was greeted by thousands of fans at the Belize airport and there was a victory parade through the capital city.
Siroki is fond of his time coaching the Belize Nationals, which included two former NBA players (Milton Palacio and Marlon Garnett), but the former Westminster player and Ohio native wanted to come home.
“I love it here. I bleed Blue,” said Siroki, a former Titan point guard who graduated in 1993. “This is the biggest reason I came home because I wanted to get the program going back where we belong. We’re getting back to where we should be.”
Westminster hasn’t won anything yet, but the Titans are starting to believe in why Siroki left Belize.
“We’re still midway through the season,” he added. “There’s a lot of season left, but I’m happy with our guys; they believe in each other.”