A chance to dance

2017 NAIA MBB Bracket

Eric Andrews | Echo

The Taylor men’s basketball team will be heading to Lookout Point, Missouri, next week to participate in the 2017 NAIA Men’s Division II Basketball National Championship.

Despite the odds stacked against them, the No. 25 Trojans squeaked into the tournament by securing the final at-large bid Wednesday night to earn their first trip since 2006.

The Trojans thought their season had come to a close after last Wednesday’s loss to Spring Arbor in the Crossroads League Tournament. Although the team played well and earned national rankings throughout the season, the Trojans needed an unlikely series of upsets in other teams’ games to have a chance to play in the national tournament.

Though the Trojans did not play as well as they wanted, other games’ turnouts allowed them to hope for a spot in the tournament.

The agonizing wait culminated Wednesday night when the NAIA announced the matchups for the tournament. The Trojans nervously awaited their fate while watching the announcement show in the athletic department’s conference room. As the matchups appeared one by one, the Trojans hoped to see their name.

When No. 8 Warner College’s opponent was revealed, the conference room changed from silence to bedlam.

“I think (junior) Keaton Hendricks said it best: ‘It feels like a movie,’” head coach Josh Andrews said in a promotional video for the athletic department. “I’m just speechless; it’s just unbelievable.”

Despite not having played in over a week, the Trojans continued practicing with the hope of earning a spot in the tournament, a decision that has now been rewarded. Preparation will continue for the next few days before the Trojans head to Missouri on Sunday.

Senior Eric Cellier smirked with anticipation when asked what the next few days leading up to the tournament will hold.

“There won’t be much sleep,” Cellier said in the athletic department’s video. “There’s so much energy. (I’m) still just juiced up and it’s going to last for a while, and I know I speak for the whole team. I can’t wait to go to practice (yesterday); I’ve never been so excited for a practice.”
The Trojans will play No. 8 Warner at 5 p.m. on Wednesday in the first round of the single-elimination tournament. Taylor will be hosting a viewing party in Odle so students can keep up with the action. The winning team will advance to the Sweet 16 to play either No. 11 Trinity International or the host school, College of the Ozarks, next Friday at 8:30 p.m.

“Logos property of respective schools and organizations. Graphic illustrated by Eric Andrews”