SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, March 24, 2016 (Brittni Colindres) — The Salt Lake Community College men’s basketball team cut down the nets for the second time in school history over the weekend after being crowned the 2016 National Junior College Champions, according to SLCC Globe.
The Bruins, who were the No. 13 seed going into the tournament, defeated the No. 7 seed Hutchinson Community College 74-64 on the Blue Dragon’s home court, making this the first national title won under Head Coach Todd Phillips, who was also presented with the Coach of the Year Award.
The Bruins players came out strong and determined. Within the first four minutes of the game, Salt Lake was up 8-0. Connor Toolson, the NJCAA William B French Most Valuable Player, paved the way for the Bruins scoring a game-high of 28 points on 11-of-20 shots from the field — including five three-pointers. He recorded four rebounds and two steals to help his team clinch the win.
“I will always remember this SLCC team for the rest of my life. It has been such a great season,” Toolson said.
The Bruins had a quick start to the second half where they racked up an 18-point lead, their largest lead of the night. They were shooting 16-for-34 from the field in the first 20 minutes as a team.
In the final three minutes of the game, Hutchinson was able to cut the lead down to four points, but that was as close as the team would get to the Bruins. The Bruin defense was able to hold the Blue Dragons to a 35.5 shooting percentage from the field and 9.09 percentage from behind the arc.
Overall, the Bruins shot 40 percent from the field (25-of-62), and out rebounded Hutchinson 41-38.
“It’s a little surreal feeling right now,” Coach Phillips said. “Every day after a win you are back to preparing for the next game, being up till two in the morning with your assistants.
“It’s finally starting to sink in. I’m so excited for the kids and so grateful for the assistants who have sacrificed their time and have put so much effort into this team.”
SLCC sophomore Tyler Rawson, who ended his playing time with the Bruins championship night, posted a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds.
“What helped us get here was all the guys coming together, fulfilling the role our coach gave us, and executing it the best we could,” Rawson said.
“After the region tournament, our confidence grew and it was like a light bulb went off and we knew how deadly we would be going to nationals.”
Sophomore Gibson Johnson contributed nine points while freshman Tad Dufelmeier, who received the sportsmanship award, scored six points, had six assists and two steals. Both Dufelmeier and Rawson were named to the All-Tournament Team.
“It was a long road with five games in six days but the boys were able to sustain their effort, their defense, and the intensity and were kept a consistent effort through out the Tournament,” said Coach Phillips.
The Bruins incredible season ended with a 31-8 overall record, earning the titles of Region 18 Champs, District 1 Champs, and the NJCAA National Champions.