The next win will be the most significant in the 43-year history of men’s basketball at Motlow College.
The Bucks can clinch the regular season Tennessee Community College Athletic Association (TCCAA) championship and an automatic berth in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) tournament with their next victory.
Southwest Tennessee visits Copperweld Arena Wednesday night. Tipoff is scheduled for approximately 8 p.m.
Motlow (18-3, 13-1) put itself in this historical position by sweeping Walters State 73-59 and Roane State 74-72 this past weekend on the road in East Tennessee.
“Our guys fought hard this weekend through some adversity,” said Bucks head coach Jerry Nichols. “Their hard work and dedication showed through. They put the team before themselves in pursuit of a common goal, which is to get to the national tournament. Now we have an opportunity to achieve that goal.”
The weekend wins, combined with Volunteer State losses to both Walters and Roane, leaves the Bucks one win away from the school’s first-ever trip to the national tournament. Volunteer was the only team remaining entering the weekend that had a mathematical chance to catch the Bucks in the standings.
The Bucks have won regular season titles before; in fact, they did it just two years ago. However, this is the first year the NJCAA has expanded its tournament field from 16 to 24 teams.
“We are very excited about the opportunity to reach the nationals,” added Nichols. “This is a great stepping stone for our program and our school. It takes a lot of preparation and practice to be in this position. Credit goes to these young men who spend a lot of time at the gym and put a lot of things aside and give great effort. They sacrifice a lot to play for the Bucks.”
The additional eight teams will come from four national wild cards, chosen by committee, and four regular season champions among the NJCAA’s 16 regions. Region VII, made up of 10 Tennessee schools, was randomly chosen as one of the first four regions to receive an automatic berth.
Motlow has an opportunity to not only win the regular season title but the tournament title as well. The college will host this year’s TCCAA/Region VII Tournament at Copperweld Arena beginning March 5, with men’s and women’s champions to be crowned Saturday, March 9. Both tournament champions receive an automatic berth to the national tournament.
“History can be made and we would love to see the gym packed on Wednesday,” Nichols said. “This is not just for us but for all our fans and supporters who have been there for us through thick and thin.”
The Bucks dominated the Walters State Senators on the boards Friday night in Morristown, holding a 52-38 rebounding advantage. Motlow led by only six points at intermission and overcame a difficult 39 percent shooting performance.
Sophomore Michael Tomlin had a strong performance inside the paint for the Bucks, leading the team with 16 points and 12 rebounds and two blocked shots. Perrin Buford scored 14 points and dished out a team-high six assists. Sean Gardner scored nine points with six rebounds and four assists. D.J. Jones added 12 points, six rebounds and three assists off the bench.
Saturday afternoon the Bucks had to withstand a pesky Roane State team that battled until the very end. Motlow trailed 72-71 with 2.3 seconds to play when Jones, who has been the Bucks’ leading scorer during the second half of the season, connected on a three-point shot to secure the hard-fought victory and put his team within one win of history.
Chris Hawkins scored 17 and pulled down nine boards, two assists and three steals. Jones had 14 points. Raul Tutton scored 13 points and Perrin Buford had six points, five assists and seven rebounds.
Motlow will host Dyersburg State on Saturday, when it will recognize its sophomore basketball players.
By C. SCOTT SHASTEEN, Motlow College