It has not been a season that many in and around the Wayne basketball program expected.
The Generals brought back plenty of talent from a 13-win campaign a year ago and headed into this season with hopes of an SAC championship.
But between injuries, missteps and off-the-court issues, this year has not turned out the way the Generals hoped.
At least, not yet.
Wayne (7-5, 3-2 SAC) hopes it is starting to finally get on track after beating Bishop Luers 81-72 on Friday night.
The victory is the second straight SAC win for the Generals and two out of three overall.
“It's been difficult,” Wayne coach Aaron Rehrer said. “It has been for me by far my toughest year. Obviously, the expectations at the beginning of the year were very high for Wayne and still are for us. But we've had to overcome some adversity.”
The hits have come one after another for the Generals. Senior Kye Black was expected to contribute significantly for Wayne but got injured during football season and was recently ruled out of any return for the remainder of the year.
Senior point guard Jescus Mitchell has missed significant time due to medical reasons and senior Jari Dada has been lost as well.
A team that at the beginning of the year started five seniors began Friday night's game with two seniors and three sophomores on the floor.
“I didn't think anybody around here would beat us this year,” senior Justin Mitchell said. “(This season) has been really emotional, but we keep our heads up and practice hard and try to win.”
It has not always been easy. With new issues popping up seemingly every week, many teams would have already packed it in. But the Generals have kept it together.
Against the Knights, they attacked the younger and more inexperienced from the outset, flustering freshman J.J. Foster on the outside and cutting down the entry passes into the paint to prevent Bishop Luers from using its size advantage.
Having a pair of senior leaders does not hurt either. Wright State commit Justin Mitchell went for 18 points in the first half and 26 overall, while brother Levi notched a game-high 30 points to go with 12 rebounds.
The Knights (8-3, 3-2) were led by Austyn Rybicki's 23 points.
“I try to be as positive as I can, but it's not always easy,” said Rehrer on what he does to keep up the team's spirits. “But we have some kids that really care that have put in the time and we have some young kids that maybe been through the fire as much that want to help out and want to be successful.”
Still coming to play every night and not turning on each other may in the end be the biggest accomplishment of this year's Wayne team.
“Emotions have been very low,” Justin Mitchell said. “Missing (brother Jescus Mitchell) and losing him was a big part of our team basically. Things have just been really emotional, but we keep our heads up and practice hard and try to win.”
The Generals still have plenty to play for, with a second-place finish in the SAC within reach as well as a run at the program's first sectional title in 20 years.
The upcoming schedule is tough, with games against New Haven, Marion and Homestead looming. But nothing will be as challenging as handling the season so far.
“Basically we are starting fresh and starting all over,” Justin Michell said. “We just have to step up.”
WAYNE 81, BISHOP LUERS 72
Bishop Luers: Tyrell Johnson 22, Austyn Rybicki 23, JJ Foster 11, Malik Martin 2, Jordan Banks 11, Caleb Kroft 3.
Wayne: Levi Mitchell 30, Cameron Leshore 8, Tahj Thomas 4, Justin Mitchell 26, Auston Robertson 10, Richard Bufkin-Scott 3.