The Salt Lake Community College men’s basketball team cut down the nets as national champions for the second time in school history on Saturday.
The Bruins, who entered the tournament as a No. 13 seed, defeated the No. 7 seed Hutchinson Blue Dragons on their home court 74-64 to win the NJCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship.
This was SLCC’s first national title with Head Coach Todd Phillips at the helm. He was presented with the Coach of the Year Award.
“It’s a little surreal feeling right now,” Phillips says. “Every day after a win you are back to preparing for the next game, being up ’til 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.”
Tournament MVP Conner Toolson paved the way for his team, scoring a game-high of 28 points on 11-of-20 shooting. Sophomore forward Tyler Rawson, who ended his career as a Bruin, posted a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds.
Rawson says the reason Salt Lake could make their run was “all the guys coming together, fulfilling the role our coach gave us, and executing it the best we could. After the region tournament, our confidence grew and it was like a lightbulb went off and we knew how deadly we would be going to nationals.”
Phillips credits the players for maintaining their focus.
“It was a long road, with five game in six days, but the boys were able to sustain their effort, sustain their defense and intensity and were able keep a consistent effort throughout the tournament,” Phillips says.
The championship caps an incredible journey for the Bruin basketball team.
“I will always remember this SLCC team for the rest of my life,” Toolson says. “It’s been such a great season.”