KNOXVILLE Johnson University’s men’s basketball team finished this season earning the title of 3rd in the nation the highest title in Johnson history at the National Christian College Athletic Association DII Men’s Basketball National Championship in Greenville, SC, March 7-9.
The Royals played their first championship game against the #6 team, Trinity Baptist College, winning 76-60, on March 7.
On March 8, the team lost to the #2 team, Grace Christian University, 75-51.
The Royals played their final game of the season, March 9, against Maranatha Baptist University, to compete for third place. They succeeded in winning, beating MBU 101-86.
The Lady Royals brought home the title of 6th in the nation after competing in the National Christian College Athletic Association DII Women’s Basketball National Championship at Bob Jones University in Greenville, SC.
The team, consisting of only six players, headed to Greenville after appearing on Channel 10 News for a short interview on March 4.
On Thursday, the Lady Royals played the 3rd ranked team in the nation, Randall University, and lost 66-67 on a shot made by their opponent with 7 seconds left on the clock.
They played again Friday morning against the host team, BJU, and lost 69-57. This final game left them ranked 6th in the nation.
“This week proved we could compete with the best…,” JU Women’s Basketball Head Coach Amy James said. “I truly believe everyone that had not seen these ladies play thought we had made it to the National Tournament by mistake, however, when we were finished playing both games we had everyone in the gym shaking their heads and saying, ‘I have never seen 6 players compete like they did’.”
At the National Championship awards banquet, Keisha McIntyre, Michaela Keele, and Taylor Thurman received Scholar-Athlete awards.
During their time at national championship week, the team completed a community service project of designing and illustrating placemats for the local Children’s Hospital.
The NCCAA has named Johnson University senior, Taylor Gilpin, the recipient of the Pete Maravich Memorial Award for Division II Men’s Basketball.
Gilpin, a guard from Bloomington, In., has helped the men’s basketball team on and off the court. As captain for two years, Gilpin has led the team with an average of 17.35 points and 4.01 rebounds per game. This season, he became Johnson’s all-time leading scorer record with over 2,300 career points. In 2018, he helped the Royals finish 4th at the NCCAA National Tournament and was awarded 1st Team All-Regional and 1st Team All-American honors.
Off the court, Gilpin has been a Resident Assistant for three years and has served with various organizations, while also helping JU connect with local elementary schools. He is a Business Administration major with a GPA of 3.56, which has led him to be a recognized as a NCCAA Scholar-Athlete in both 2018 and 2019.
“Taylor is a tremendous example of faith lived out in everyday life,” Head Coach Brandon Perry said. “He has set a culture of high character and academics for our team while maintaining a high level of basketball skill.”
According to the NCCAA website, “The purpose of this award is to recognize the outstanding NCCAA student-athlete in Men’s Basketball and highlights excellence in competition, skill, academics, and Christian service during his career. ‘Pistol Pete’ Maravich was known for his ball handling, shooting abilities, and creative passing. He was an NBA All-Star, named one of NBA’s 50 greatest players, and inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1987. He came to know Christ later in his life and spent the last years of his life pointing people to Christ. This award is sponsored by Mr. Gary Beck, manager of the Gary Beck Foundation and a former NCCAA All-American student-athlete from Greenville University, IL.”
The Royals had an exciting week of tennis picking up their first win of the spring season as well as playing their first home match on the newly built ARC tennis courts.
After ending the fall season with a win against cross-town rival Maryville College, the Royals looked to get continue the momentum against Warren WIlson. The Royals got out to an early lead in the first tier but fell behind in the second. Using an aggressive playing style the tandem of Stephen Damon and Michael Rhodenbaugh put away their opponents on the top tier 8-2.
Taking a 2-1 lead into singles, the Royals easily rolled in three of the five matches. At the number one spot, Carson Byington jumped out to a quick first set lead 6-0 and continued to roll 6-2 in the second set. Two Royals also got their very first college win as Malachi Carr and Camden Rusch did not drop a game at the three spot and five spot, respectively. The Royals capped off the day with two highly competitive matches with Rhodenbaugh at the 2 spot and Riley Reinhardt at the 4. Rhodenbaugh was able to stage a comeback in the first set and squeak out a 7-5 win while Reinhardt would fall in a back and forth set, 6-4. In the end, Rhodenbaugh was able to put away his opponent while Reinhardt dropped the second in similar back and forth fashion.
On Saturday, the Royals were back in action but this time on the Johnson ARC tennis courts against Wittenberg College. The Royals inaugural home match started off rough as the Wittenberg Tigers got off to quick starts on all three doubles courts with the only pair that was able to take a game was the pair of Dalton Sauer and Caleb Weaver. Despite fighting hard, the Royals would eventually be swept by a score of 9-0.
Coach Hale explained the ups and downs of the week after the match saying, “Starting off the spring with a win is a great boost of confidence. We all played very well and everyone was able to get up early and execute our game plan. I was also very proud of how we fought on Saturday, we fought to the very end and really embraced playing on campus with the support everyone behind us. This week has definitely laid the foundation for us to have a good season.”
The Royals return to the ARC on March 14th against Ferrum College.