Perhaps it was fitting: UMass Lowell men’s basketball seniors Chad Holley, Kerry Weldon and Marco Banegas-Flores played their final home game not in the dingy, drab Costello Gymnasium that they have called home for their respective River Hawks careers, but the spacious, state of the art Tsongas Arena that will be UMass Lowell’s home of the future.
A future that Holley, Weldon and Banegas-Flores have all helped build, but a future that none of them will be around to enjoy.
“During the game it was kind of emotional,” said Holley, who scored a team high 15 points in a 76-60 loss to UNH.
Even though they tried to make the Wildcats their focus, none of them could ignore what last Saturday’s Senior Day game meant: one step closer – and only one game away from – the end of their careers.
“We were down a lot; definitely don’t want to go out like that. Emotions definitely beginning to come into effect sometimes with certain plays and stuff like that, but overall, I think it’s [been] a good night,” said Holley.
Weldon, an all-guts-no-glory guard-turned-center was the first two arrive on campus, five seasons ago. Holley came next, as a transfer in 2012 during the River Hawks final season of Division II basketball, and Banegas-Flores, a graduate transfer from Northeastern, each played a big role in Lowell’s transition to Division I hoops.
And after Wednesday’s game at Stony Brook, all three will be hanging up their college jerseys for good.
Unfortunately for the River Hawk seniors, a red-hot Wildcats squad put a damper on their final home game. New Hampshire held the River Hawks to only 25-percent from the field in the first half, enjoying a 10 point lead heading into the break.
Holley couldn’t quite carry his team back from the double-digit deficit, but left everyting he had on the floor in the second half, scoring 14 of his 15 points in the last 20 minutes of the game. He also hit three 3-pointers, including back-to-back long bombs.
“I wish the results for Senior Day could have been better. This guy to my left, Chad, deserves better,” said UMass Lowell Head Coach Pat Duquette. “He had a great night, he deserved to be player of the game. He’s been a rock for us all year and this loss certainly doesn’t diminish anything that he’s meant to the program the last two years. I’m proud of the way he’s played, I’m proud of the way he played tonight, and the way he’s represented our program.”
Despite the results, there was a bright spot in Saturday’s game: Despite the swirling snowstorm outside, 1,447 fans flocked to the Tsongas, giving the trio of seniors a rousing sendoff from their fellow classmates.
“I think most seasons do go by real fast; they go by too fast,” said Duquette. “Especially when you ask a senior who’s in his last week, and I think that’s a credit to our guys and the success we’ve had. It’s been enjoyable, and a little different than maybe I had expected and most people expected the first couple years. This is a huge transition, it’s an unbelievable challenge, and we’ve had a ton of success in the first two years, and when you’re having success and when you’re winning some games, it tends to go by a little faster.”