Tourney time for Panthers

Published 12:30 pm Friday, March 3, 2017

By Kevin Eckleberry

LAGRANGE – The LaGrange College Panthers have accomplished so much over the past four seasons.

They’ve won three USA South basketball tournament championships, and they’ve reached the NCAA Division III national tournament for the fourth straight season.

The one thing the Panthers have been unable to do, though, is win an NCAA tournament game, and they’ll attempt to make that happen today.

LaGrange College (18-10), fresh off its championship-winning performance in the USA South tournament last week, will be in Abilene, Tex. today to play Hardin-Simmons (22-6) at 8:30 p.m.

Also today, it’ll be Emory (18-7) taking on Texas Lutheran (19-9) at 6:30 p.m.

On Saturday, the winners of today’s games will meet at 8 p.m. with a berth in the sweet 16 on the line.

LaGrange College has fallen short in its three previous trips to the NCAA tournament.

In 2014, LaGrange College lost to Centre 78-71, and it lost to Whitworth 88-60 in 2015.

Last year, LaGrange College came close to getting that breakthrough NCAA win, but it fell to Birmingham-Southern 93-91.

Today’s assignment is a tough one for the Panthers against a Cowboys’ team that has won seven straight games.

Hardin-Simmons beat LeTourneau 104-92 to win the American Southwest Conference championship, with Nathaniel Jack scoring 32 points while bringing in 14 rebounds.

Duane Hopper added 30 points for the Cowboys, who average 88 points per game.

LaGrange College is hot as well.

The Panthers have won eight of their past nine games, and they beat three higher-seeded teams to win the USA South title.

Senior Justyn Olson, who made the all-tournament team, leads the Panthers in scoring at 14.1 points per game, and he’s also tops on the team in assists (81), steals (66) and minutes played.

Fellow senior Drew Vanderbrook averages 12.9 points per game, and USA South tournament MVP Alex Bonner scores 12.7 points per game, and he leads the team in rebounding.

Elijah Adedoyin also averages in double figures at 11.4 points per game, and all-tournament player Travis Thompson scores eight points a game.