A huge throng of well-wishers turned out to support the freshly-minted conference-champion LaGrange College Panthers on Monday.
The Panthers, coming off a championship performance in the USA South tournament over the weekend, gathered in the school’s Dickson Assembly Room on Monday to find out who they would be playing in the first round of the NCAA Division III national tournament.
The room was packed, and LaGrange mayor Jim Thornton was even on hand to deliver a proclamation honoring the team.
Monday’s event came one day after the Panthers returned home to a campus celebration Sunday night.
Denzel Robinson, a senior on the basketball team, said the support has been “unbelievable.”
“It’s just crazy,” Robinson said. “To have this kind of suport from fans, and staff, it’s a great feeling.”
Junior Nick Mitchell, who was the MVP of the conference tournament, said he “didn’t expect all of this,” referring to Monday’s ceremony.
“When they said we were watching in here, I just thought it was just going to be us,” Mitchell said. “But this is crazy to see how much support we have. We really feel it. And when we’re on the court, we know people are behind us. They want us to do well, and we feed off that.”
All of those in attendance watched closely as the bracket was revealed during the webcast of the Division III selection show.
The Panthers soon found out who their first-round opponent will be.
LaGrange College (18-10) will make the trek to Danville, Ky. to play the Centre Colonels (23-4), who earned their tournament bid by winning the Southern Athletic Association championship.
If LaGrange College gets past Centre, it would visit Emory University on Saturday for a second-round game.
This will be the Panthers’ first-ever appearance in the NCAA Division III tournament, and the conference championship is the first for the men’s program since the 1974-1975 season.
As meaningful as that accomplishment is, though, LaGrange College head coach Kendal Wallace said “we’ve still got a lot of work to do. We’re not satisfied.”
Mitchell said as soon as Monday’s ceremony ended, it was time to go to work on getting ready for Centre.
“When we go to practice, I’m going to tell everybody, all of this needs to be out of our mind,” Mitchell said. “We have another goal, and that’s to go get a win.”