Every team in college sports sets preseason goals.
The goals often start small and get progressively more ambitious, the pinnacle being a national championship. It doesn’t matter the level of competition — from junior college to Division 1 athletics — athletes often want to be the last ones standing.
The Salt Lake Community College men’s and women’s basketball teams have already checked off two of those preseason goals: win the regular season conference title and the postseason conference championship.
In addition, the men’s team checked off the NJCAA DI West District championship on Saturday night in a 101-73 dismantling of Eastern Arizona.
The Bruins are led by five All-Region 18 players. Justice Hill was named the Region 18 Player of the Year. Asa McCord joined Hill as a first-team selection, Spencer Johnson earned second-team honors, and Christian Popoola and Ed Chang garnered honorable mentions.
First-year head coach Kyle Taylor was named the Region 18 Coach of the Year.
“This is really a team award,” he says. “I’m blessed to work somewhere like SLCC with great people and resources.”
Riding a 15-game win streak, and a perfect 14-0 conference record, the Bruins now gear up for the NJCAA National Tournament in Hutchinson, Kansas. Taylor glows when talking about his first team at SLCC.
“We’re really good defensively,” he says. “We were fortunate with recruiting and got some really talented players that want to work.”
The women’s basketball team fought through some early season struggles before amassing a 15-game mid-season winning streak.
SLCC clinched the Scenic West Athletic Conference regular season crown on the final weekend before rolling through the Region 18 tournament with wins of 24 points and 19 points, resulting in the program’s seventh consecutive NJCAA national tournament trip.
The Bruin women took home plenty of regular season accolades, including their own Region 18 Co-Player of the Year, Awa Sidibe. Other awards include a first-team selection for Ashley Scoggins, a second-team honor for Leichan Williams, and honorable mentions for Hazel Fui and Fatoumata Jallow.
First-year head coach Marcilina Grayer appreciates the growth she’s seen out of her team this season.
“We played a tough early season schedule in hopes it would prepare us for moments like this,” she says, referring to the 19-point drubbing of rival USU Eastern in the Region 18 title game. “We’re excited to be representing the SWAC in the NJCAA tournament.”
The Bruin women open as an 18-seed against Butler College on March 17 at 5 p.m. The Bruin men will wait until March 18 at 11 a.m. before they hit the hardwood again. They enter tournament play as a 4-seed, facing the winner out of Western Wyoming CC vs. Angelina.
Update: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NJCAA canceled its upcoming national basketball championships, as well as all spring sports competition. SLCC men’s basketball ends the year with a 29-4 record, while the women’s basketball team finishes the season with with a 22-7 record.