Written and Media By Justin Willis.
Despite having a great season with averaging 126 points a game and winning the SLIAC Tournament, the Greenville Men’s Basketball Team fell short to nationally-ranked Augustana College 123-111 in the first round of the 2018 NCAA Division III Tournament this past Friday.
Coming into this game, no could have guessed the outcome. Even so, Pather fans could not help but be excited about the fact this was the first time that the Panthers will be making an appearance in the NCAA Tournament in program history.
At the start, Greenville came out pretty hot. The game took off with a deep three from Barry Nixon which led to a 7-0 run. Everything seemed to be going our way as shots started falling, forcing the opposing team to shoot bad shots and to turn the ball over. As the game continued, the score jumped from 13-5 to 26-8. It was difficult for Augustana to keep up with the Panthers system gameplay. Throughout the first half, the Panthers definitely had a lot of momentum, with their largest lead at 19 points. Entering into the half, the Panthers were up 67-54. Unfortunately for the Panthers, Augustana was coming off some momentum, making two key three-pointers in the first half to bring the lead down to just 13.
Things began to shift for the Panthers during the second half. Augustana started off with a furious dunk in the lane to get things started and draining another three-pointer, which decreased the lead 69-61. For so long, the Panthers held onto the lead until the 13:40 mark, with a made basket from Augustana’s Brett Brenning tying the game 80-80 for the first time all night. Not letting down just yet, Sonti Grady hits a nice, mid-range jumper to gain the lead back 82-80, with 13 mins remaining in the half. After the Grady jumper, two big steals from Johari Dix and another 3 from Grady gave the Panthers the lead again. The score was 89-82 with 11 minutes remaining in the game. Things began to start going crazy as Augustana went on an 11-4 run, tying the game 93-93 with just 8:52 remaining. Unfortunately, things went downhill after Dix attempted to steal the ball but instead committed his fifth foul, forcing him to be out the rest of the competition. After that, Augustana gained their first lead of the night with the score 95-93 and 8 minutes remaining. The struggle for the Panthers continued as Augustana stretched their scoring run going 31-8. With 3 minutes remaining in the game, the score was 113-97.
Even though the Panthers put up a fight, they could not comeback losing 123-111. Grady and Isiah Price led the team in scoring with 18, and Josias Parker added in 16. Despite fouling out, Dix ended the game with 14 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 steals. After the game, Senior Ethan Leib stated, “I thought we played a very hard-fought game, and it almost looked like we could very well make history by defeating a nationally ranked team in front of a sold-out crowd.” He continued by saying, “The atmosphere in the gym from the tip was amazing, nothing like I ever experienced before.”
The 2018 season for men’s basketball may be over, but their efforts and accomplishments are worth the recognition. Don’t forget to congratulate the Panthers on the success they had this season, and be ready to cheer them on next year!