DANVILLE — In Indiana, most everything and anything in basketball has been accomplished by its college teams.
But until last week, there was one thing that an Indiana team did not do: Qualify for the NJCAA Division II Basketball Tournament.
Ancilla College was able to break out of that with a 93-70 win over Grand Rapids Community College last week in the Region 12A Championship game in Grand Rapids, Mich.
“That’s a huge accomplishment because Indiana has been known for their basketball for many years,” Chargers coach Brian Pearison said. “It seems like when you are born there, you pick up the basketball. For us to achieve that is very exciting for us and most of the team is from Indiana.”
“I didn’t know about it until we all found out and It is pretty weird,” sophomore guard Ty’Sean Sheppard said. “We are the only team from Indiana in our conference, so that is a good reason. We are glad that we made it here and to be the first team.”
The Chargers enter the tournament with a 22-9 record under first-year coach Pearison, but he said that the team learned a lot and those lessons led them to Danville.
“We had some small hiccups along the way, but you want those hiccups because you can never perfect your team if you don’t have any failure,” Pearison said. “In the course of those nine losses, we have learned from every single loss and that is what got us here. We are getting hot now and playing our best basketball of the season. We learned from our failures and it got us where we are at.”
“Earlier on, we were trying to get everything together since we had a lot of freshmen come in,” Sheppard said. “I think we have come a long way, defensively we are dialed in. Our main struggle was rebounding, but we have done a great job recently and we have come a long way there.”
After losing their final two regular season games, Ancilla caught fire in the regional tournament, beating Jackson College 81-72 and Glen Oaks Community College 94-83 before the title game, which saw them beat Grand Rapids in their third matchup in the season. Grand Rapids won the first game 101-96, but Ancilla won the second 91-76.
“We split with them in regular season, but they were hosting the event and that gave them the advantage in many ways,” Pearison said. “They were the No. 1 team in the conference and it was a big win for us. We were very dialed in right here.”
“We lost to them by five points in the first game, but in the title game, it was personal because we lost to them in the regional tournament last season,” Sheppard said. “They were ranked No. 1, so we came out and we just beat them.
Sheppard is the leader in points and rebounds for the Chargers, but Pearison said that not all opponents should not focus on.
“Ty’Sean is our top player, he averages 22 points and 12 rebounds a game, which is impressive,” Pearison said. “He was MVP of our conference and MVP of the region tournament and he is probably going to be an All-American. For a guy who is 6-3, is pretty amazing.
“We also have Al Haskins, who is 6-5 and is our wing/post player. He has a 42-inch vertical leap and is averaging a double-double this season. Mike Green is our second leading scorer and is our point guard and best defender, he can get down and get going. Jerron Tatum is a sophomore and caught his stride as of late.
For Sheppard, it has been a good time especially with his cousin Green, Kyreese Parker and Tyrese Walker, who all played against each other in high school in South Bend, Ind. Sheppard was at Clay High School, while Green and Parker were both at Adams High School and Walker was in Westville high School in Michigan City, Ind.
“We have pretty good chemistry., We had five returners and three of them I knew at South Bend,” Sheppard said. “I know them very well and try to help them out as much as I can. We came a long way with some of the freshman like Josh (Alcindor) and Wes (Sage). Wes became a starter and we have tried to get the ball to him a lot.”
The Chargers will start action Wednesday at 1 p,m. against Milwaukee Technical College, a team that will be different from any team they have seen.
“They are a pretty good team and aggressive team and we have not played that many teams like that this season,” Sheppard said. “There are not that many aggressive teams in the conference, but if we don’t let that effect us, we should do very good.”
“They are a very athletic team. They are aggressive in every aspect of the game,” Pearison said. “They are aggressive on defense, in the fullcourt, the halfcourt. Offensively, they try to score within five seconds and they have scored 102 points per game, which is tops in the country, They average 18 steals a game, which is tops in the country and opponents have given away 28 turnovers. A lot of things that do well and you can state by the statistics, they are the team to beat. It will be a tough game for us.”
No matter where they end up this week, the Chargers have already beaten pressure to make history this postseason, so the sky is the limit.
“It’s fun, we are going to enjoy the process and being here for the first time and hopefully it will not be the last,” Pearison said. “They (Danville) are very nice, it is first class and they treat us very nice. We are excited to be here and excited to compete.”