WATERTOWN, Wis. -- On February 24, the Maranatha Men's Basketball team ousted Oak Hills Christian College with ease to win their first NCCAA Regional Title in 15 years.
That weekend, the Sabercats could not be stopped.
For one thing, the team never trailed in the entire 3-game weekend. For another thing, the Sabercats averaged 91 points per game while holding their opponents to an average of 60. The Sabercats didn't just win; they won with panache.
With the win, the Sabercats qualified for NCCAA DII Nationals, which will begin tomorrow morning on the campus of Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina. After the hard work that the program has produced over the last few years, the victory at regionals tasted sweet.
"It obviously meant a lot to win our region," said Coach Keith Salscheider. "The last three years, we have been in the region championship and lost, so we have felt [that] we have been a nationals-level team for a while and things haven't worked out. I think that's one reason the regional tournament went so well for us - we all knew our history and wanted to change it."
With the regional tournament behind them, the team is adjusting their mindset for the challenge ahead.
"This whole experience has been amazing," said team captain Micah Shepard. "We have nothing to lose with a title on the line. All the hard work has paid off. The first nine games of the season we were playing really well together. And we are finding that rhythm again at just the right time. We find that rhythm when shots are falling, but championships are built on defense and effort. And God has given us the abilities to do just that."
Experience is not on the Sabercats' side, but this is a matter of little concern.
"Everyone deserves to be here and anyone can beat anyone," Salscheider said. "Our mindset is to win the hustle, rebounding, and turnover battles. If we do that, we like our chances. We have been scouting teams all week and we feel like we understand the competition."
"Nationals is a new experience for all of us, coaches and players," Shepard added. "So we are kind of the Cinderella Team. We flew down here for the sightseeing and southern weather. And a championship."
The Sabercats' bid for their first national title since 1990 (and their second in program history) will begin tomorrow morning a 9 a.m. Central Time against Johnson University Tennessee. Catch the details of each game at mbusabercats.com/composite.