In late October, Michael Bradshaw was a first-time starter on the nation’s No. 1-ranked NAIA Division II men’s basketball team.
Over the span of two days, Bradshaw and his Cornerstone (Mich.) University teammates were 0-2 and curious where they were headed.
“Those first two games were a little rough,” said Bradshaw, a senior guard from Prairie Ridge High School. “It was definitely a wake-up call. We figured it out after that.”
Since those two losses, the Golden Eagles have proved to be alive and well. The team has won 28 of its past 30 games, including a 19-game winning streak.
Beginning Thursday, they will return to the NAIA national tournament in Sioux Falls, S.D., where they lost last season in the national championship game.
Bradshaw has soared along with his team, which was ranked No. 1 in last week’s national rankings. The senior guard earned first-team All-Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference honors by more than doubling his scoring average from last season. His 15 points a game is third on the team and his 88 3-pointers are the best in the league and rank 16th nationally.
“I’ve had a lot of fun,” the 6-foot-4 Bradshaw said. “I was a little nervous [about starting] at first. But as soon as that first tip went up, I got a little more confident.
“It’s a cool accomplishment [to be all-conference]. There are a lot of good players in our conference.”
Bradshaw said he is fortunate to play with two of the best – Cornerstone 6-6 senior forward Kyle Steigenga and 6-8 junior center Sam Vander Sluis. The two post players have combined for 36.2 points and 21.7 rebounds a game.
“I’m very thankful for them,” Bradshaw said with a laugh. “Those are the main reasons I get open, because my guy has to help inside. If my defender doesn’t help, we’ll score at will.”
Over the past two weeks, Bradshaw is averaging 21.8 points a game while connecting on 48.4 percent of his 3-pointers.
His 111 career games played, along with the team’s five games at nationals last season, are one of the main reasons the Golden Eagles are confident heading back to the NAIA tournament.
“We’re all a year older,” Bradshaw said. “We all have a little more experience.”
For Bradshaw, the experience of starting wasn’t new, but it was a welcome change to being the team’s sixth man a year ago.
“I started in high school, so it wasn’t totally new,” he said. “This is an opportunity I’ll never forget.”
Rauhut earns weekly honor: D-III Marian (Wis.) University sophomore softball pitcher Paige Rauhut earned the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference Pitcher of the Week award Monday.
Rauhut, a McHenry East grad, pitched Marian to a season-opening 15-0, five-inning win against UW-Superior. Rauhut allowed two hits in the victory.
In her second outing of the season, Rauhut struck out nine in six innings of a 6-1 loss to St. Scholastica.
Fanter, Cougars take title: Sophomore forward Chanel Fanter narrowly missed a triple-double last weekend with a career-high 26 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds in NAIA Saint Xavier’s 112-64 win in the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference women’s basketball tournament championship.
Fanter, a Crystal Lake South grad who earned honorable mention all-conference honors, helped No. 4 SXU to its 10th league title in the program’s 18-year history. The Cougars (29-2) became the first CCAC team since 2010 to go unbeaten in league play throughout the regular season and also win the tournament title.
SXU begins play Wednesday in the NAIA D-II nationals in Sioux City, Iowa. The team finished second in the nation last season.
Two-time Big East champ: CL South grad Kyle Hedge successfully defended his Big East Conference shot put title last weekend, winning the event with a throw of 52 feet, 5½ inches.
Hedge, a junior at DePaul, posted a throw at the Big East meet that was the league’s best this season by a foot. He was one of 10 DePaul men’s track and field athletes to be named to the all-conference team after the meet in Staten Island, N.Y.
Wyatt’s wow factor: Cary-Grove and McHenry County College grad Wyatt Mascarella went 4 for 5 with four RBIs on Sunday for the D-I St. John’s University baseball team, which started 7-0 for the second season in a row.
Mascarella doubled twice and drove in four runs as 23rd-ranked St. John’s beat Penn State, 18-4, for the team’s highest run total in the past two years.
Lach drives upset: Jacobs grad Alyssa Lach, a senior at D-I Butler, drove in one of four runs Feb. 16 for the Bulldogs in a 4-0 victory against Iowa of the Big Ten Conference.
Lach, who plays third base for the Bulldogs (2-7), has a team-high three RBIs this season and ranks second on the team in hits (seven). She has started 163 career games.
• Barry Bottino writes a weekly column about local college athletes for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at email@example.com and follow @BarryOnCampus on Twitter.