Even before the season began, back in October when they were only scrimmaging each other, the basketball team focused on one thing: a trip to New York.
Now, after finishing their season with a 26-4 record (10-2 in conference play) and claiming the Region V championship, the Harvesters are realizing that dream. They left Tuesday for Loch Sheldrake, N.Y., where they will compete for the national championship at the NJCAA Division III Elite Eight tournament.
“We’re looking forward to getting these last three wins,” sophomore guard Brock Hunter said. “We just need to work hard and stay focused when we get up there.”
The Harvesters are trying to win their second national championship in team history. In 1997, coach Bob Flickner, now a physical education professor at the college, led Eastfield to its first title.
This year’s team, ranked No. 5 in the latest national poll, is led by coach Anthony Fletcher, who came to Eastfield in 2005 and will be making his first Elite Eight appearance.
“It’s been a lot of hard work,” Fletcher said. “This coaching staff has put in eight good years of hard work, and the players have put in hard work as well.”
Fletcher said several players have made sacrifices for the team.
“You look at Michael Love, who redshirted last year,” Fletcher said. “He’s been a key piece to what we’re doing and we asked him to redshirt last year for this reason here, to contribute to a championship team.”
Eastfield’s baseball team was crowned World Series champions in 2011. Now the basketball players believe it’s their turn.
“I’m ready to bring back some more of that NJCAA hardware,” freshman forward Andrew Maxie said. “We got the regular season and the Region V trophies. Now it’s time for a national championship.”
The tournament will be hosted by Sullivan County Community College. Teams from seven states will compete in the tournament. First-round games begin on Thursday; Eastfield plays in Game 1 at 11 a.m. against the winner of the Region VII tournament. The game will be shown on the TV in The Pit.
The players are looking forward to the New York experience.
“I’m ready to try one of those New York hot dogs, New York pizza or something,” Maxie said. “Crab legs with the heavy butter.”
Following their win in the Region V tournament championship, several Harvesters were honored with postseason awards. Sophomore point guard Semar Farris was crowned Metro Athletic Conference MVP, and Maxie won Freshman of the Year honors. Both players were also named to the all-region first team and are all-American nominees.
Hunter was a second team all-conference selection, while sophomore guard Demarcus Metcalf was a third-teamer, and Oscar Lewis and Love were both honorable-mention picks.
Eastfield President Dr. Jean Conway, Assistant to the President Sharon Cook, Dean of Science Dr. Gretchen Riehl and Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs and Student Success Michael Gutierrez will travel to New York to support the team.