The Motlow Bucks continued what has become the greatest men’s basketball season in school history by beating Walters State 71-60 on Saturday to capture the Tennessee Community College Athletic Association (TCCAA)/National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Region VII tournament championship at Copperweld Arena.
“I’m so proud of this team and how they have fought through adversity this year,” said Bucks head coach Jerry Nichols. “We have had injuries and other things happen during the year, and each time someone else stepped up and played well. I feel blessed to be a part of this.”
The Bucks (25-3) now advance to the NJCAA national tournament, scheduled to begin March 18 in Hutchinson, Kan. Motlow has never appeared in the national basketball tournament.
Walters State (17-15) also advances due to the expansion of the NJCAA tournament this year from 16 teams to 24 teams. Region VII is one of four regions nationwide that will send two teams to both the men’s and women’s tournament.
Motlow is seeded No. 14 in the national tournament and will play its first game Tuesday, March 19 at 10 a.m. against No. 19 Connors State College from Oklahoma.
“I hoped we would get a higher seed than 14th,” Nichols added after learning of Motlow’s national tournament seed. “Playing at 10 a.m. against a quality program like Connors State will be a big challenge for us. Hopefully we can get a win and play again. I am confident that our guys will give everything they have.”
The Walters State women are also heading to Kansas as the NJCAA women’s tournament is in Salina, Kansas beginning March 18. The Lady Senators beat Volunteer State 80-44 in Saturday’s championship contest.
Both the Motlow men and the Walters State women also won the regular season conference title and both already had their tickets punched for the national JUCO tournament. Their respective wins on Saturday put an exclamation point on already sparkling seasons.
Still, nothing came easy for the Bucks during the tournament as they beat Chattanooga State 89-82, Jackson State 86-82 and finally Walters State. Motlow redshirt freshman Chris Hawkins, who scored 16 points in the final game and 64 during the three wins, was named the tournament’s most valuable player. Teammates D.J. Jones and J.C. Bonny were also named all-tournament.
Earlier in the week, Motlow head coach Jerry Nichols was named the TCCAA Coach of the Year for the second time in three years. Hawkins, Bonny, Jones, Sean Gardner and Perrin Buford were named all-conference for the regular season.
Coincidentally, the last time the Motlow College hosted the TCCAA state tournament, Nichols led Walters State to the title as an all-American player.