The year was 1997: Michael Jordan had captured yet another NBA championship, Bill Clinton was still in office, and “Titanic” debuted in theaters.

Since that year, the men’s basketball team has not had a winning record. But, after 15 years of subpar seasons, the Lions are on pace to not only finish above .500, but also close to the top of the Commonwealth Coast Conference. Through the first 18 games of the season, ENC has an overall record of 13-5 and is 7-4 in conference games.

That momentum was put in jeopardy in January, when senior guard Max Barbosa (Dorchester, Mass.) was unable to play in the first four games of the spring semester. Someone had to step up and fill the void in Barbosa’s absence; that someone was freshman guard Jaylen Owens (Johns Creek, Ga.).

Since Owens took over the starting point guard role, the Lions have gone 9-3.

Senior guard Aaron Johnson (Roslindale, Mass.) praised Owens.

“He distributes the ball well, plays great defense, and keeps our play at a high tempo.”

The Lions were on a seven-game winning streak recently, including an 85-72 victory over Curry — the top team in the CCC — on Jan. 17. With only seven games remaining, the Lions have their eyes on the CCC championship, which they have not won since joining the conference in 1992.

“If we just stay positive and keep working hard, we can finish at the top of the CCC and even make a run in the [NCAA] tourney,” said Owens.

Everything seems to be going right for this year’s team. They possess a great combination of experience, depth, energy, and athleticism. They have already tripled their win total from last season.

The Lions take on Nichols at 7 p.m. tonight in the Lahue PE Center.