45 year-old drought ended

Posted Friday, March 12, 2010 - 10:05am

Last weekend was one that will not quickly be forgotten by members of the College of Eastern Utah men's basketball team. On Friday they dismissed Salt Lake Community College Bruins, and secured a place in the finals of the Scenic West Athletic Conference tournament and then on Saturday the Eagles knocked off nationally ranked North Idaho College to secure the first conference title in 45 years. The week before the tournament EU closed out the regular season with a loss in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, against NIC, and a win against the College of Southern Idaho Eagles.

On Feb. 25 the Eagles headed north to take on the NIC Cardinals. In this game, as with most of the games this season between NIC and CEU it was a close game. The first half was hard fought and the Eagles had a slight 38-36 lead. However the Eagles weren't able to get the win against the Cards and dropped the game 87-78. Michael Glover led the team with 22 points, and seven rebounds. Cliff Colimon racked up 13 points for CEU.

After the loss at NIC, the Eagles traveled to Twin Falls, Idaho, for their final regular season game, where they took on CSI. In a nice change for CEU, this game was a blowout. The Eagles easily handled CSI defeating them 90-68. In this game the Eagles were aided by good shooting with a 52 percent shooting average from the field and an 83 percent average from the charity stripe.

Following the big win over CSI, the Eagles returned to Price for the SWAC Tournament held at the Bunnell-Dmitrich Athletic Center last weekend. CEU received a first round bye and didn't play their first game until Friday afternoon. When they took on the reigning national champion SLCC Bruins.

The game was close in the opening minutes of play. With 16 minutes left in the half Nick Thompson hit a nice turn-around jumper that gave the Eagles a slight 8-6 lead. Isaiah Williams shined brightly for the Eagles shooting great from behind the arc for the whole tournament. For much of the first half it was close, both teams were fighting for a place in the finals. In the later part of the first half Tony Dalton extended CEU's lead to 11 points by hitting a three to make it 33-22 Eagle lead. As the teams went into the locker room at the half the Eagles had 39-31 lead.

In the second half, Michael Glover established his dominance in the paint. At times Glover appeared to be unstoppable, virtually scoring at will against the Bruin defense. With 10 minutes left in the game, Darian Norris hit a tough three for SLCC and cut CEU's lead to six points. Two minutes later the Eagles lead was down to three. But the Eagles proved to be too much for SLCC to handle. And with a minute left in regulation, SLCC was serenaded with chants of "it's all over" from the CEU Scream Team. The final score was 85-75, sending the Eagles into the championship game Saturday night.

After the game on Friday night, my roommate and I went to McDonalds for a late-night snack. While we were there, I saw Glover and told him how great he'd played. Casually, he shrugged his shoulders and said "I had to."

In the championship game, CEU faced off against the No. 5 team in the nation: the NIC Cardinals. The Card's proved to be a challenge for the Eagles throughout the game. NIC center Guy-Marc Michel looked dominant in the opening minutes, easily scoring in the paint on NIC's first possession of the game.

The Eagles would bring in Vander Jorquim to control Michel. Jorquim played great defensively for the Eagles and after the first few minutes, Michel was no longer a factor. CEU trailed early on in the game. Colimon hit a shot with 13:45 to go in the half to bring the Eagles within two points. Glover would tie up the score after the media timeout with a perfect spin move to the hoop making it 11-11.

By the second media timeout CEU had built a small 21-17 lead. The Eagles were able to build some momentum towards the end of the half. Thanks to threes by Colimon,Thompson, CEU briefly extended their lead to 10 points, but as the teams went into the locker room, it was a 37-31 lead for the Eagles.

The second half was hotly contested, and play became physical. With only four minutes gone in the half, NIC had committed four early fouls. Glover once again gave the fans something to cheer about with a huge block. Following the block the fans directed chants of "MVP" towards Glover. A few minutes later, Williams blew the lid off the BDAC; he hit a three-pointer from the arc to give CEU a 12-point lead.

NIC still had one run left in them. Sophomore guard Taylor Stevens put on one of the more impressive shooting displays of the tournament. Hitting five-straight treys, he made it close down the stretch. With 1:30 left in the game, the Eagles clung to a six-point lead. CEU played well down the stretch, hitting their free throws to maintain their lead. With under a minute left in the game the fans started to celebrate by singing the Steam classic "Na Na Hey Hey Goodbye."

As the last second expired the CEU faithful stormed the court to celebrate the SWAC title with the team. Head Coach Chris Craig said in a Facebook post "Our fans were the difference Saturday night." In the three years that I have covered basketball at CEU, Saturday night was by far the best atmosphere I have experienced in the BDAC. The fans were amazing and it affected the play of the Eagles, and clearly affected a few NIC players.

After the championship game on Saturday, Head Coach Chris Craig said that winning the tournament "felt great" but as always for the level-headed coach, he was focusing on the future. He added "but we've got to get one more."

The Eagles then played Mesa Community College on Tuesday Mar. 8, at the SLCC campus. The two teams were playing for a chance to go to the national tournament in Hutchinson Kan.

Following the end of the tournament SWAC officials handed out some awards. Tony Dalton was named to the all-tournament team, as was Michael Glover who was also named tournament MVP. Glover was also named SWAC.

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