Tri-C Men’s Basketball Advances to NJCAA Division II National Tournament
Challengers punch ticket with victory over Owens in Region XII championship
The Cuyahoga Community College men’s basketball team is going dancing.
With an 80-70 victory over Owens Community College on Saturday, this year’s Challengers squad did what last year’s couldn’t: win the Region XII title and advance to the NJCAA Division II national championship tournament.
“It’s very exciting, especially for our sophomores,” head coach Michael Duncan said. “They were finally able to get over the hump that they didn’t get over last year.”
Last year’s team ran up an impressive 28-3 record, but couldn’t get past Cincinnati State Community College, which handed them all three of their losses — including their season-ender in the Region XII final.
This year’s Tri-C team (29-1) is the No. 3 seed in the 16-team NJCAA Division II championship field. The Challengers will face Arkansas State University Mid-South in their opening-round game Tuesday, March 20 at 12 p.m. ET in Danville, Illinois.
“It’s special to get this far, but we know we still have work to do,” Duncan said. “We’ll wait and see who we play and when, and we’ll go from there. Until then, we’re going to keep practicing and trying to stay sharp.”
There is some added good news: sophomore wing Devon Robinson, out since mid-February with a broken wrist, could see action next week. It would mark the first time since early December that the Challengers have had their entire starting five available. Sophomore big man Wade Lowman was also sidelined for two months with a wrist fracture, returning just after Robinson suffered his injury.
“Devon’s return is getting close,” Duncan said. “The cast is off, and we’re just going to keep working on strengthening that hand and icing it to keep the swelling down. We’re hoping that we finally have a whole team next week.”
As for Duncan himself, he’s trying to strike a balance with his team — readying them to face the best of the best in the national championship tournament while still allowing them to savor what they’ve already accomplished.
Duncan was a member of Tri-C’s 2004 national championship team as a player, but this is the first time he’s been to the big dance as a coach.
“It’s actually more difficult as a coach because you’re not on the floor playing, so you don’t have that direct control that you have with the ball in your hands,” Duncan said. “But I still talk to these guys about what a special experience it was back in ’04, what it took to get it done and win the whole thing. It’s not easy to get to where we are now, but it’s going to take even more work to get to the top of the mountain like our team did in ’04.”
March 12, 2018
Erik Cassano, 216-987-3577 or firstname.lastname@example.org