A sold out crowd of fans greeted the Yellow Jackets as they entered the sixteenth round of the NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball Tournament. Coming off a victory against Virginia Wesleyan to attain the ODAC championship and a 78-65 victory against Catholic University, the team was ready to start the tournament with a win.
The first team that stood in their way to victory was St. John Fisher College from New York. St. John Fisher fought their way to the tournament, but they knew they had to a tough fight ahead of them against the Yellow Jackets.
The Yellow Jackets stormed their way onto the court with 24 straight wins from prior games, and the sold out crowd was not shy in showing their support for their respective teams. Junior Tyler Edmonds recalled that the stands were “jam-packed” and that “the gym was so loud and I never heard us get that hype. It feels great to be a Yellow Jacket.”
The team started the game with an early lead of 4-0, but the Yellow Jackets were met by the Cardinals strong offense. For the first half, the Yellow Jackets and the Cardinals battled head to head, matching each other’s points.
Senior Joe Hassell was able to put up 10 points and five rebounds for the Jackets. Senior Chris Hamilton made some three-pointers and was able to sink in three of them before the half. The score was 29-26 at the half with R-MC leading.
The Yellow Jackets were unafraid and knew they had to work hard to maintain the lead. With 24 season victories, they knew what they had to do in the second half.
As the crowd rallied behind the Yellow Jackets in the second quarter, Hassell was able to hit four free throws, which assisted in the 43-34 lead. The Cardinals accepted the challenge and pursued the Jackets with a nine point run to make the score 55-52, but the Jackets were still ahead.
With only three minutes left on the clock, seniors Marcus Badger and Akeem Holmes racked up some more points, increasing the lead for Macon. Suddenly, the night came to an end for the Cardinals as junior Lamont Moore made an impressive dunk over the Cardinal defenders. The final score of the game was 65-57, which meant the Jackets were going to have to play one of their biggest rivals: Virginia Wesleyan.
The last time R-MC and Virginia Wesleyan met, the atmosphere in the gym was unbelievable; fans were determined to see us win against our rival. Tickets were sold out in a matter of minutes as students rushed to Crenshaw Gymnasium from freshmen village, the Greek houses and the senior apartments.
The stage was set for the March 14 face-off as both teams just came off wins; R-MC had won against St. John Fisher and Virginia Wesleyan defeated Dickson College. The Jackets were on a 25 game winning streak and were determined to make it 26.
The game began with immediate highlights as the Virginia Wesleyan Marlins started with a 6-2 lead, but junior Lamont Moore scored the first nine points of the game for R-MC. As expected, the Marlins matched the Jackets as they were able to put some points on the board, making the score a 23-17 lead with three minutes to the half.
The Yellow Jackets did not give up the fight and were able to end the half with a 24-23 lead with Moore putting up 13 points and retaining six rebounds. Everyone knew this game was going to be a challenge, and it was just the first half.
The Marlins started the second half with a slight lead, but they were reintroduced to Moore, Hassell, Holmes and sophomore Michael Taylor. As Lamont and Hassell helped the Jackets get points, Holmes stopped the Marlin offense with some devastating blocks. With 10:25 left in the game, the score was tied four times within the next five minutes, which showed the determination and grit of both teams.
With four minutes left in the game, Lamont was able to score another three-pointer before the Jackets lost the ball to the Marlins, in which they were able to pull ahead of R-MC. The score was 48-47 with two minutes left in the half, and as the clock ran down, the Marlins were able to sink a free throw that ended the game. For the first time this season, the Marlins were able to win against the Yellow Jackets.
Despite the loss, this season was phenomenal for the Yellow Jackets, the coaching staff and the basketball program. The Yellow Jackets had a 25-game winning streak, were ranked number one in their division for numerous weeks and won the ODAC championship.
This season was full of highlights in which numerous players, from freshmen to seniors, were able to have career high records. They progressed greatly and will face newer challenges next year. As always, the Yellow Jackets will be prepared to face the challenge before them.
This loss serves as a lesson that will allow the team and coaching staff to grow. The basketball team made many students proud to be Yellow Jackets, and we all thank the team for that feeling.
-Jordon Lee ’16, Junior Sports Editor