Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

March 12, 2014

NCCAA national championship still a goal for the Bluefield Rams

By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — A close loss to defending national champion Georgetown in the Mid-South Conference tournament didn’t end the season for Bluefield College.

Lose tonight or on Friday, and the season will be over for the Rams.

“We just have to make sure we handle our business and know that there is no tomorrow,” Bluefield head coach Richard Morgan said. “We have got to go out and play with that mentality, that one and done.

“It was nice to play in the Mid-South Conference, lose and still know that you had another tournament, but there is no other tournament after this one if you lose.”

Bluefield College will host the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) Mid-East Regional men’s tournament at the Dome Gymnasium over the next two nights at the Dome Gymnasium.

The survivor of the four-team field will advance to the NCCAA National Championships on March 19-20 at Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind.

“For the young guys it is good to get in as many games as you can get in,” Morgan said. “I think it is good for our program to go out there and be in this and having it at our gym where you have got all the things right there for you.”

Top-seeded Bluefield (15-11) will host No. 4 Hiwassee (6-18) tonight at 7 p.m., with No. 2 Union University (11-15) and No. 3 Tennessee Temple (21-12) meeting at 5.

The winners will compete for the Mid-East Regional championship on Friday at 6. Tickets are $4 for adults and $2 for students and children.

Earning a trip to Indiana will bring Morgan what he would like, a chance for a national title, and three more games for his young club.

“If we can get to that, you play three games though, you don’t go there, lose and come home,” Morgan said. “You play all the way out so you will know when you leave there if you are first or you are last.

“You will know when you leave the tournament so that is something I like, I think it will be something good for our guys.”

Bluefield narrowly dropped a 78-74 decision to Georgetown in the Mid-South tourney last Thursday, with four Rams scoring in double figures.

“We probably could have had them if we had done a few things here or there,” said Morgan, whose Rams left two days early for Lebanon, Tenn. to be prepared for the Tigers. “We made some mistakes down the stretch and that is where you have got to make free throws, and we had a couple of open shots we missed.

“Overall I thought our guys did a tremendous job of just competing. Never being in that situation, I thought we did a wonderful job.”

While Bluefield has been led by the senior trio of Kearsten Marion (16.4 ppg, 61 3s), Josh Nesbit (13.9 ppg, 7.6 reb) and Alex Lubsey (12.7 ppg, 6.2 reb), Hiwassee’s record isn’t the best, but Morgan is wary of coach Hugh Watson and his Tigers, who played three games this season against NCAA Division I competition, much like the Rams.

“I know they are going to come in here ready to go, he has got some good players, they are going to come in, and they want to do the same thing we are trying to do,” Morgan said. “It wouldn’t be any better for them if they could come in and knock off the number one seed and stay around a couple of days and try to get another chance at going to the championship.”

Union University — not to be mistaken for Union College in Kentucky — enters having lost five games in a row and eight of its last night, and will be led by Corleon Pearson (17.0 ppg, 3.8 ast) and A.J. Roberts (14.2 ppg, 7.0 reb). Tennessee Temple, which just recently lost to Washington Adventist — which fell earlier this season at Bluefield — in the USCAA finals, dropped a pair of NCAA Division I games, losing by just 10 to Savannah State.

“It is funny how all the teams have played somebody that we know so we can kind of compare, but you really can’t because it comes down to that night on that floor on that given time,” Morgan said. “We are going to come in and play as hard as we can and let the chips fall where they may.”

The NCCAA Championship will include the winners of eight different teams from across the nation. Bluefield athletics has had success before in NCCAA postseason play, winning the national championship in baseball in 2010.

“I think this is perfect for our group,” Morgan said. “Our group is still trying to find ourselves and this is a good opportunity for them to go out there and compete at a high level and possibly get a chance to play for the national championship.”

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The Bluefield College women will also be in NCCAA Mid-East Regional action beginning on Friday in Jackson, Tenn., with two teams having at least 20 wins.

Third-seeded Bluefield (14-15) will play the host club, Union University (20-6), on Friday at 7 p.m.

That game will be preceded by top-seeded Lee (22-4) and No. 4 Tennessee Temple (16-14).

The winners will meet for the Mid-East title on Saturday at 7 p.m, with the champion advancing to the NCCAA Championships, which will also be next week in Indiana at Grace College.