Monday, March 6, 2017

Monmouth soldiers on despite latest March heartbreak

King Rice expresses concern as Siena completes comeback to oust Monmouth from MAAC Tournament and send Hawks to NIT. (Photo by Vincent Simone/NYC Buckets)

ALBANY, NY -- Friedrich Nietzsche famously said that which does not kill makes us stronger.

Over a century later, the noted German philosopher's sage advice is still relevant in everyday life, and in the case of Monmouth University and their second consecutive exit from the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament, more painfully real than ever before.

"We fell a little bit short," King Rice admitted after an 89-85 loss to Siena that eliminated his Hawks from the MAAC Tournament semifinals, reiterating his team won 55 games over the past two seasons, with several high-major opponents falling victim to the Hawks in that span. "That happens. We're still learning how to do this, and tonight, it wasn't enough."

"As I told them in the prayer after the game, the Lord did not think we were ready for that next step," he conceded. "We feel hurt and dejected, but you only get things put in front of you that you can handle."

The lack of a chance to prove their mettle in the greatest spectacle in the sport may leave a gaping hole in the legacy of a senior class whose compliments have transcended the program, but the senior leader who was most instrumental of all in awakening the sleeping giant on the Jersey Shore realizes that in life, while not everything is sugarcoated and sweet, failure does not ultimately diminish what was won along the way.

"We wanted to end it with a conference championship," Justin Robinson revealed. "It stings that we didn't, but we did a lot. Although it hurts right now, I'll be able to look at my guys and say we gave everything we had all season long, made sacrifices and we stayed together. I love them, and they love me. It's a brotherhood that will last a lifetime."

With that said, Rice again vowed that both he and his program would emerge from the ashes, that this too shall pass. It may be unfair to Monmouth fans who expected this year's incarnation of the Hawks to fulfill the destiny they were unable to reach, but this latest experience, much like the cross that is still borne from the 2015-16 season, is more fuel to stoke the competitive fire in West Long Branch for a young core of players returning to take the next step in raising the bar for a program with sky-high potential.

"This will make us all stronger," he affirmed. "I'll be a better coach, these guys will be better young men because of how it went down. I'm going to represent them every single day. And when you lose, you dig deeper and you represent them better."

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