With a program record-breaking 28-win season, the John Brown University men’s basketball team awaits an official announcement from the NAIA regarding their potential ninth trip to the NAIA tournament.
Although disappointed by the recent 66-51 loss to the Southwestern A.G. Lions in the Sooner Athletic tournament championship game, the Golden Eagles have achieved many victories throughout this season. The team celebrated a decisive 80-65 win over Oklahoma City in the Quarterfinals last week, maintaining a lead during most of the game. This victory established a 17-0 home record inside Bill George Arena.
In the wake of this triumph, sophomore guard Luke Harper and junior forward Densier Carnes earned All-Sooner Athletic first team honors, and senior forward Quentin Bailey and junior guard Rokas Grabliauskas were given honorable mentions. Breaking yet another program record, this is the first time that the Golden Eagles have featured two first-teamers in the same season. The team continued their success in the Sooner Athletic tournament semifinals with a 78-67 win over the Oklahoma Science and Arts.
Harper said that the biggest successes of the season were the team’s victories and the fact that various program records were broken. “I think the highlight would have to be just in the fact that we shattered a lot of people’s expectations,” Harper said. “We were picked 6th in or conference and we got to a point where we were almost 6th in the nation. That was pretty dope.”
Jack Stockton, a senior management major and loyal Golden Eagles fan, attended many of the games this season and credits the team’s consistent triumphs to their collaborative effort on the court. “I think that much of the team’s success can be accredited to the unselfishness of the guys on the court,” Stockton said. “Instead of one person carrying the load, there’s been shared production across the team. On any given night, any given player could get hot and drop 20 points.”
Harper agreed that the teamwork mentality contributed to their success overall: “I think the reason we have been good is because of our culture, we all love each other, nobody is selfish, we all want what is best for the team. Plus, we all work hard.” Stockton believes that regular student participation in the stands adds to the excitement of the experience and lends momentum to the players. “As a student body, it’s an adrenaline rush to feel like you have an impact on the game,” Stockton said. “Having the chance to pump up our guys and get in the opponents’ head makes the games so much more enjoyable.”
Harper hopes to move on to the NAIA tournament and ultimately clutch the championship game.
“I think our goal is to win the national championship, it’s going to take a lot to get there, but I think if we play to our abilities and our shots are falling we can make it happen.”
The Golden Eagles will gather for the Selection Show on Wednesday night, where they hope to get an at-large bid to the NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championships. The Selection Show is in Walker Student Center at 6:45, and is open to the public.
Photo courtesy of Karen Penner