Written and Media by Justin Willis.
In this weekend of extraordinary events, the Greenville Panthers Men’s Basketball Team came out on top as the 2018 SLIAC Conference Champions and will be heading to the NCAA Division III Tournament for the first time in school history. During this run, the Panthers had to survive two rounds of the conference tournament. They faced Westminster College in the first game. In the past years, Westminster has been the team to crush Greenville’s dreams, but on Thursday night things changed. Greenville had the game under their control with the help of the roaring student section getting into the opposing team’s head. They pulled off a 125-112 victory led by Johari Dix with 26 points, 7 steals, and 7 assists. Also, Barry Nixon had a double-double performance, scoring 15 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.
Prior to the event, awards were handed out to different players and coaches for All-Conference honors. Isiah Price earned third-team honors, Dix was awarded first-team honors and all-defensive team, Ethan Leib was given Greenville’s honoree sportsmanship award, and Head Coach George Barber was awarded co-coach of the year award.
Coming into the championship round, there are a lot of things at stake. This could have been the senior’s last basketball game they would ever play. Another reason tensions were high was due in part to the Panther’s dreams of making the tournament. Coming into this game, everyone in the stands was positive that this would be a blowout game and that the Panthers would walk away with an easy victory. For most of the game, it seemed to be that way. The Panthers had the led the whole game, coming into the half up 69-52. In the second half, things started to get a little interesting. Greenville held a 20 point lead for most of the game, but the energy in the building died down as Blackburn began to sneak their way back into the game trailing by 4 points with 4 minutes remaining. Just as things started to look good for Blackburn, a huge spot up three-pointer from Dix gave the Panthers momentum and brought back life into the building. The players began to feed off on the fan’s energy and chants. The GU men pulled off a 126-119 victory to earn the rights to be SLIAC Conference Champions.
In this game, the team was led by Adam Warren who recorded a double-double with 23 points and 16 rebounds to earn All-Tournament honors. The team was also led by Dix, who a had a monster game with a 26 points and 8 assists earning the SLIAC Tournament MVP. After the game, Senior Christian Caldozo was asked how it felt to be conference champs and his run on making it to the tournament for the first time in program history. His thoughts were, “It feels great to be a conference champ for the 3rd year in a row. It feels even better finally winning the conference tournament and being able to go to the NCAA tournament.” Later he added, “…but we’ve expected this with all the hard work we’ve been putting in since pre-season, and we definitely feel like we deserve this more than anything.”
The Panthers will soon find out who their first opponent will be in the NCAA DIII tournament. Stay tuned and continue to watch our Greenville Panthers make history.