ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – Senior center Sergio Olmos knew he’d be the closest thing to Mount Everest in Saturday night’s Atlantic Ten Conference final. The 7-footer towered several inches above Duquesne’s tallest player—6’9 freshman forward Oliver Lewinson.
Olmos finished with 14 points, nine rebounds, three blocks and a spot on the A-10 Men’s Basketball All-Championship Team. The Spaniard had just the right touch offensively and defensively, and believes that this time around is even sweeter.
“Last year was more emotional, but this one I think is more of an accomplishment we really wanted this and we got it,” Olmos said.
Teammates could agree that the big man, who can let his emotions take over at times, was pivotal in snagging the Owls’ eighth career A-10 crown.
“He’s relentless,” senior guard Dionte Christmas said. “He did a great job on the boards— him and Lavoy. He did a great job of getting us baskets and I couldn’t ask for [any] more out of a senior. He led us to victory today.”
Offensively Olmos was nearly flawless shooting 6-8 and draping the paint with his frame. Six offensive boards helped the Owls earn 19 second chance points. Olmos had a simple philosophy for breaking down the Dukes’ down-low pressure.
“Get the ball high and shoot quick[ly] over the top of them,” Olmos said. “They are a great team and do a great job with the guys they have. When they collapse you have to slow down and take a back dribble and just look for open teammates,” Olmos added.
Olmos had some shaky moments defensively against the versatile 6’7 freshman forward Damian Saunders. At the 7:17 mark in the first half, Saunders ferociously dunked over Olmos. Fortunately, the Owls’ center recovered and when it mattered most, in the second half, he was all over the floor.
He made his presence felt down the stretch as the Dukes attempted to make a run. At the 10:26 mark, Lewinson went up for a lay-up but was met with the firm hand of Olmos. Later, with less than three minutes to play, he steered Saunders off-balance enough to impact his shot and recover possession for the Owls. Critical stops like these led to the Dukes shooting just 33.3 percent from the field in the second half.
Another notable sign of Olmos’ progression has been his ability to stay away from foul trouble. Against Xavier he had just one foul, and against Duquesne he committed only two. Olmos has worked hard to change his defensive positioning.
“I just use my height, try to get my hands up,” Olmos said. “I used to just swing and I got a lot of fouls with that. I try to think in my mind my team needs me and I try and watch the fouls.”
The next stop for Olmos is the NCAA Tournament, where he thinks the team can better last year’s one-and-done performance.
“I don’t see why not. I think we can make some noise,” Olmos said.
He may be short with his words, but his non-vocal leadership was a main ingredient in the Owls’ latest championship. His height didn’t hurt either.
Anthony Stipa can be reached at email@example.com.