BY JOHN DUBOIS
One of the best seasons in Louisburg Community College history ended on a winning note as the Hurricanes won the consolation championship at NJCAA Division II Men’s National Tournament with a hard fought 74-69 victory over the Mott Bears.
The Hurricanes, who ended the regular season ranked No. 1 in the nation, finish their season with a record of 35-2.
“This will sound like coach speak, but in my heart these guys are national champions,” said Louisburg coach Mark Vanderslice. “Coach (Steve) Schmidt has built Mott into the benchmark program that everyone at our level wants to become and to get a win against them is an exciting moment for our program.
“A lot of people might say that is a bitter sweet win to take the consolation championship, but I’m going to take the bitter out of it. I am very proud of our guys and this team will be a part of me for a long, long time.”
Paul Stone led the Hurricanes with a game-high 18 points with Kevin Williams adding 14 points while Tyquan Roberts contributed 13 points and Lashawn Alexander chipped in with 12 points. Stone is a 6 foot, 6 inch sophomore from Danville, Va.
“It’s nice to go out with a win,” Stone said. “I am very thankful for my teammates and our coaching staff. Our game plan coming into this game was to rebound, rebound, rebound, and rebounding was a big part of why were able to get the win.”
The defending national champion Bears were led by 16 points from Malik Albert with Fred Mattison adding 15 points and Devin Foster 10 points. The Bears were the No. 1 seed coming into the tournament and finish with a record of 31-5.
“There is no shame in going 2-2 at this tournament,” said Mott coach Steve Schmidt. “Louisburg is a well-coached quality team and we are better for the experience for having the opportunity to play them. We played hard and competed in all four games and it was an eye opening experience for our younger players that gave them the chance to grow up. It was a good hard fought game today. We missed a lot of shots early but we competed right down to the wire and this is something that we can build on.”
Stone had 11 early points as the Hurricanes got out to a 17-10 lead. Mott would rally to tie the score at 19-19 and led 23-22 before Louisburg closed out the half on a 12-3 run to take a 35-25 lead into halftime.
“They are traditionally a second half team and we knew this game would not be a blowout,” Vanderslice said. “Momentum is huge in basketball and we were able to get some at the end of the first half which we could carry into the second half. The key was that we played on our toes and not on our heels.”
The Hurricanes led 57-44 with just over 10 minutes to go, but sparked by their defensive pressure the Bears rallied to take a 65-64 lead with 4:30 to go. The Hurricanes would retake the lead at 66-65 and held it for the rest of the game.
“We expected that they would comeback in the second half,” Stone said. “We are a second half team to though and we were able to make our free throws late.”
Overall the Hurricanes were 14-for-18 at the foul line with Stone hitting a pair with 16.2 seconds to go to seal the victory.
“We were able to withstand their comeback and that was a great experience for us,” Vanderslice said. “It’s easy to talk about dealing with situations like that, but you have to experience them. We played aggressive basketball to the final buzzer and that was another key reason why we were able to get the win.”