The Emmanuel College men's basketball team completed the 2017-18 regular season with an 18-10 record before cruising through the National Christian College Athletic Association postseason with five consecuive wins and the school's third national championship since 2009.
The awards were heaped on the Lions enroute to the crown, including All American recognition for three players and head coach T.J. Rosene's pick as National Coach of the Year for the third time. A final mark of 23-10 gave Rosene his 11th straight season of 20 wins or more.
The journey began when the Lions traveled to Columbia International University to compete in the NCCAA South Region Tournament, registering a win against Piedmont International, 92-73, in Game 1.
Elijah Robinson led with 21 points followed by Kendrick Colvin with 19. The Lions shot 81% from the line and 53% from the field. Robinson was fouled to start the second half and went 11-11 from the line for the night. The Lions were up by 13 with 15 minutes left in the game. Derek Vandiver fired off consecutive 3-pointers totaling 15 points.
Emerson McClung started off the first half going 2-2 with free throws.but Emmanuel trailed at intermission, 42-34, despite three dunks in the first 20 minutes..
EC then continued the journey in the NCCAA South Region Championship defeating Warner University Royals, 94-107.
The postseason continued the next week, moving to Winona Lakes, Ind. and the eight-team national tournament. The No.2 Emmanuel team out-hustled the No.7 College of the Ozarks 80-63 on Wednesday afternoon's run toward the NCCAA National Championship.
"I'm really proud of the guys today," Rosene said. "College of the Ozarks was easily one of the toughest teams we have had to defend all year long. They run a great offense. We did a nice job locking in."
Against the Bobcats Emmanuel went 53.6% from the field, with 18 points coming from Senior Elijah Robinson. Junior Kendrick Colvin followed closely behind shooting 7 of 12 to lift the Lions to their third straight postseason win.
The Lions came out hot with the first basket of the game coming from Robinson with a three. Another jump shot from Robinson and two more field goals from Colvin gave Emmanuel a nine-point lead. The Bobcats were unable to catch up.
Emmanuel added 27 points from the bench, with Nathan Williams going 4-for-6 from the three-point line.
This victory propelled the Lions forward in the tourney and boostsed their overall record to 21-10.
Next up was the NCCAA semi-finals. The Lions came out of the gate firing on all cylinders, sprinting to a nine-point advantage on two long jumpers from Robinson and a pair of field goals by Kendrick Colvin. The first basket of the game coming from Robinson with a three. EC never trailed.
Emmanuel added 27 points from the bench, with Nathan Williams going 4-for-6 from the three point line.
EC continued its postseason win streak with a 78-56 triumph to advance to the National Championship game by snagging the semifinal win against Bluefield College, 78-56.
"I'm really proud of the guys today." said Rosene. "That was easily one of the toughest teams we have had to defend all year long. They run a great offense. We did a nice job locking in.
"We played extremely well collectively," assistant coach Graham Maxwell said. "Everyone did their job. Our bench gave us great minutes tonight as well."
A trio of threes from Vandiver and an excellent showing from the charity stripe by the entire team left the Lions with a 42-24 halftime lead.
Looking ahead at the national championship game, Maxwell said, "Come Saturday, we have to be locked in. This is for everything and everybody will be a little tired and banged up on both ends. It will just come down to hustle plays and execution. We are blessed to have this opportunity and we are excited to represent our school in the game."
Southwestern Christian University provided the opposition in the showdown but never posed a serious threat, falling 85-65 to Emmanuel.
Nathan Williams had a huge performance coming off the bench going 5-for-6 in 3-pointers totaling 15-points. McClung followed behind Williams with 14-points. Colton Collins, Kendrick Colvin and Kurtis Robinson all followed with 12, giving the balanced EC group five players in double figures.
On the defensive side, Elijah Robinson led with 11-rebounds and three blocks.
"An amazing run." Rosene said. "I couldn't be more proud of these guys. They love each other and care for each other. They desire to be good men and I am thankful to watch them on their basketball, academic and faith journey."
Kendrick Colvin was named First Team All-American and to the All-Tournament Team. Elijah Robinson was named Third Team All-American and Tournament Most Outstanding Player. Jack Fitzpatrick was named a Scholar Athlete.
By: Danny Daniels