Tigerville, S.C.—The North Greenville Men's Basketball Team punched its ticket to the NCAA Division II Men's Basketball Championship for the first time in school history on Sunday, after a 68-66 win over Mount Olive in the Conference Carolinas tournament.
NGU is one of six teams in this year's tournament making their first appearance in the tournament, including Western Oregon, The University of Sciences, Mercyhurst, Colorado Springs, and Azusa Pacific.
The Crusaders put together an impressive stretch of wins in the conference tournament, dismissing the top two seeds in King University (2) in the semifinals and Mount Olive (1) in the championship. North Greenville advanced to the "Final Four" after defeating Barton College in the opening round a week prior. The win over the Bulldogs was North Greenville's first league playoff win after losing in the first round the previous three appearances.
The Crusaders will have to knock off another top seed in the NCAA Tournament as they drew top seeded Lincoln Memorial in the opening game. The Railsplitters finished the season ranked sixth after a 27-1 record in the regular season, but finished the 29-2 overall after being upset by Carson Newman in the South Atlantic Conference championship game.
LOOKING IN: NORTH GREENVILLE
The key to North Greenville's success is no secret as the Crusaders continue to put up solid offensive numbers this season. NGU averaged 50 percent from the floor while averaging 78.4 points per game. The lineup boasts five starters who rose above the 300 point mark this season, led by Conference Carolinas Freshmen of the Year Spencer Reaves who has 530 thus far. Reaves did most of his damage from the three point line where he hit 89 of 205 attempts for 267 points.
North Grenville also gets solid scoring from the three seniors in the lineup in Phillip Brown, LaShawn Alexander, and Micah parker. Parker is third on the team with 364 points on the season, averaging 11.7 points a contest. Parker was named the Conference Carolinas Tournament Most Valuable Player following an impressive three game stretch. Parker averaged 14 points during NGU's championship chase, shooting 69 percent from three point range including a 4-4 performance against Barton in the opening round.
Philly Brown leads the way for North Greenville on the post, averaging 11 points per game while leading the Crusaders in both rebounds and blocks with 228 and 41 on the year. Opposite Brown is LaShawn Alexander who adds size and athleticism to NGU's opening cast. He scored 355 points this season while collecting 6.1 boards a contest. Brown and Alexander were both All-Tournament nods. Alexander finished the three game span, making 19 of his 26 field goals while Brown had five blocks against Mount Olive in the championship.
At point for North Greenville is junior transfer Korval McElroy who led the Crusaders in three different categories. McElroy was second on the team in scoring this season with 373 points, but also quarterbacked the Crusader offense to perfection, dishing out 130 assists to lead the squad. He also led the way in field goal percentage averaging 51 percent while locking down on the defensive end of the floor. McElroy led NGU with 43 steals this year with five blocks.
Head coach Chad Lister also gets solid production off the bench. Chris Brown and Jai Jencks provided solid options for NGU, scoring 120 and 110 points so far this season as reserves. Troy Blyden averages 3.9 points a games for the Crusaders, giving NGU another athletic option in the post.
LOOKING IN: LINCOLN MEMORIAL
The Railsplitters averaged 80.3 points per game this season en route to the South Atlantic Conference regular season championship, led by Luquon Choice who scored 481 points. Choice averaged 15.5 points per contest. The Railsplitters claim two other scorers with over 300 points this season as Ross Lorenza and Gerel Simmons check in with 369 and 318 respectively.
Keenan Peterson leads the Railsplitters in rebounding with 8.3 boards while scoring 9.9 points a game from the block. Peterson scored 288 points this Season for Lincoln Memorial. Rounding out the big scorers for LMU is Curtis McMillion. McMillion scored 237 points this season while shooting an impressive 63 percent from the field.
The Railsplitters have overpowered their opponents this season, outscoring them by an average of 18 points a game and were 16-1 in the B. Frank Turner Arena, the host spot of this season's Southeast Regional. LMU is no stranger to the NCAA spotlight. The Railsplitters are entering their fifth consecutive year of playing in the "Big Dance" but will be first time hosts this season after finishing the regular season and conference tournament ranked 6th in the country.
2015 NCAA SOUTHEAST REGIONAL INFORMATION
The Crusaders will depart from Tigerville, South Carolina on Thursday en route to Harrogate, Tennessee, a three-hour trek from North Greenville's Hayes Gymnasium.
For more information on the 2015 NCAA Southeast Regional tournament bracket, follow the links provided below.
Lincoln Memorial University
6965 Cumberland Gap Parkway
Harrogate, TN 37752
2015 Southeast Tournament Central (Links to team information, live stats, and video broadcast.)