The Monroe Mustangs men's basketball team made history on Thursday night at the MAC (Monroe Athletic Complex). Wtih a second half surge that was emblematic of head coach Jeff Brustad's Monroe career, the Mustangs pulled away from Harcum and coasted to an 82-70 win, giving their coach his 300th victory. Brustad's coaching record Read about it in the Journal News Watch the news 12 report
Uneven play in the first half might have had some fans wondering if this was going to be the coach's night as they went into the locker room with only a one-point lead. But in the second half, the Mustangs front line duo of Maurice Ndour and AJ West, combined with some slick outside shooting from their freshman Dominican point guard Carlos De Jesus, simply wore down Harcum and when the final buzzer rang, it was a history-making 300th win for their coach.
"It was a night the kids came through like they have through my whole career," said a happy Coach Brustad after the game. "They executed what we have worked on and we got the 'W'".
While grateful for his players, in many ways it is they who ought to be grateful to him. With only one returner and a fistful of freshman, this season has presented maybe the biggest challenge of Coach Brustad's career. Part of that pressure, it must be noted, is because the standard of winning he has set at Monroe has been so high. With an .820 winning percentage earned over ten years, Brustad's Mustang teams are assumed to be winners each year. Eight Region championships, five District titles and the accordant national tournament appearances (including the last three) will do that.
But as this 2012-13 version of the Mustangs is demonstrating, the consistency of the coach's message and methods, his ability to teach his student/athletes to maximize their skill sets and, most importantly, get them to commit to a winning culture, can turn what at first can appear to be a ragtag group into a national contender. Maybe the hallmark of 300 wins will mean that Mustang success can be taken for granted no more. True to form, Brustad was gracious about it.
"It's an individual honor," he said, "but the kind of thing you don't fully appreciate until your career is over. In some ways, it's just the culmination of a lot of hard work. From the day President Stephen Jerome offered me the job there have been a lot of people, adminstrators and colleagues, who have had a hand in it."
In the Harcum game, Ndour was once again spectacular, scoring 25 poiints, pulling 18 rebounds, and blocking four shots. West had 20 points, 19 reounds, and added seven to his NJCAA-leading total of blocked shots. De Jesus was perfect from the field (4/4) with 12 points, and Isaiah Epps had 10 assists.
Brustad and the Mustangs will shoot for win #301 Saturday afternoon at Westchester CC beginning at 2:00pm. They are now 16-5 on the season, 2-0 in conference.