By Ronald Hanaki
On March 12, ESU’s Men’s Basketball team won the NCAA Atlantic Region Championship for the first time in school history by beating the Shippensburg University Raiders 84-72 at Virginia State University’s Multipurpose Center in Ettrick, Va.
This was a competitive game that started with the Raiders scoring the first four points.
Then the Warriors went on a 20-8 scoring run to lead by eight points with just under ten minutes left to go before halftime.
But strong play by Ship seniors Justin McArthur and Dustin Sleva would cut into ESU’s lead, and the Warriors only held a 34-31 lead at halftime.
McArthur’s three-point basket to open the second half tied the game at 34, and the Warriors were in a dogfight.
The game would continue back-and-forth as neither team wanted to give an inch. With just under five minutes to go, the game was tied 67-67.
But finally, the Warriors went on a 17-5 scoring run to close out the Raiders with an 84-72 win.
It was the first time in program history that ESU reached the Elite Eight of the national tournament.
Redshirt-junior Josh Williams was the high man for the Warriors with 16 points and eight rebounds.
Redshirt-senior Steve Harris tallied 15 points and six rebounds.
Other double-digit scorers for the Warriors were redshirt-junior guard Jakwan Jones with 13 points and junior guard Kitt Najee Walls with 12 points and senior guard Ryan Krawczeniuk with 10 points.
Head Coach Jeff Wilson was quick to give credit to his team at the postgame press conference.
“Our guys did a really good job the last two days of preparation,” said Wilson.
“We changed some things in our pressure,” said Wilson. “We changed a couple of things subtly in our offense to try to take advantage of some of the overplay they did defensively.”
“I thought my guys did a very good job adjusting,” stated Wilson.
“Our bench tonight has done–at various times during the year I think carried us in stretches–and I think that was the difference tonight,” said Wilson.
After the game was over, Harris was named the Tournament MVP.
“It really is just a team effort,” said Harris. “Without the rest of my teammates around me, none of this would have been even close to possible.”
“Whenever we get individual awards, Coach Wilson always says that it is a team award,” said Harris. “We really do believe that, and we all take pride in the awards that we get.”
Wilson said, “The last time I checked, winning is the most important thing.”
“And when you have guys that buy into that winning and buy into the family that Steve [Harris] talked about and these guys have preached all year, that’s when you have a chance to be successful,” said Wilson.
Williams said, “40 gets us 40, that’s our motto. We’re going to keep on going until we get the national championship.”
The Warriors played Northern State University in the NCAA Tournament Quarterfinals in Sioux Falls, S.D. last Tuesday night.
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