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March 22, 2014

Bears earn first title in 93-year history of men’s basketball program with 71-67 win over Essex County Saturday


Phoenix, Arizona – March 22, 2014 -- Phoenix College is proud to announce that for the first time in the 93-year history of the school, the PC Men’s Basketball team has won the NJCAA Division II Men’s Basketball Championship.  The 5th-seeded Bears earned the national title by defeating 6th-seeded Essex County College (from Newark, New Jersey), 71-67, in the championship game Saturday night at Mary Miller Center at Danville Area Community College in Danville, Illinois.  The win makes Phoenix College the first community college in the history of Arizona to win a men’s basketball national championship game.  


After battling down to the very last second in their quarterfinal and semifinal matchups the last two nights, the Bears expected nothing less than the same type of showdown with the Wolverines Saturday.  They got that and more, since it was ECC who got off to the early start, 7-2.  But for the fourth straight game, the Bears righted the ship and went on an extended run of 10 unanswered points to take a 12-7 lead with 15:17 left in the first half.  The lead would stay within two possessions for the Bears until the latter stages of the half when PC forced three straight Wolverine turnovers to score 11 unanswered points, building their largest lead of the game, 41-28.  The Wolverines built some of their confidence back in the final 62 seconds of the half by closing the halftime deficit to 8 at 41-33.


PC began the second half by promptly extending their lead back to double digits, then watched ECC gradually chip away at the deficit, cutting it to 2 points at the midpoint of the half.  It would stay a two-possession game in favor of the Bears until the Wolverines made one final charge in the latter stages of the game.  A bank shot, a free throw and then a three-pointer by Dion Rogers brought ECC from behind to tie the game at 65-65 with 1:40 left in regulation.  Rogers’ trey would prove to be the Wolverines’ final push as one minute later, goaltending on Joel Feigler’s breakaway layup gave PC the lead back at 67-65 with 39 seconds left.  Brandon Brown (Cesar Chavez HS) would add a free throw with :20 left to extend PC’s lead to three.  The deficit shrank to one after ESC’s Rashad McNeil’s driving  layup with :12 left, but that would be where the scoring would end for the Wolverines as PC broke through ESC’s full-court defensive pressure to whittle the game clock down to 3 seconds before PC’s Derreck Brooks (Desert Ridge HS) was fouled and calmly sank 2 free throws.  Essex still had a chance, trailing, 70-67, with 3 seconds left, but Rogers’ haste to get the inbounds pass and motor down the court allowed the inbounds pass to squirt through his fingers out-of-bounds, sending the ball back to PC with :01.8 left, and ending the suspense of which team would be able to crown themselves first-time champions.  Rogers led the Wolverines (28-6 overall) with 25 points while Chris Compas put in a dozen.  Meanwhile, Brooks’ torrid shooting all night long led the way for the Bears as he finished with a game-high 25 points while Joel Feigler poured in 17 points and Brandon Brown 14. 


As the final buzzer sounded at the Mary Miller Center, the Bears ran out onto the floor to celebrate the historic moment.  Brown, who had tears streaming down his face as he hugged his coaches and fellow teammates, was then voted as the tournament’s Most Valuable Player after averaging nearly 19 points and over 6 assists per game for the week, while Brooks was voted to the All-Tournament team.  Brooks poured in a game-high 25 points, and sank all 10 of his free throw attempts. Feigler finished with 17 points to go along with 6 rebounds and a pair of blocked shots; while Brown finished up with 14 points and five assists for the Bears, who end the season with an overall mark of 28 wins and 8 losses.  Meanwhile, Rogers had the hot hand throughout the game for Essex, finishing with 25 points on six three-point goals; while Chris Compas added 12 points and 13 rebounds in the losing effort.


After receiving his award and ceremoniously cutting down the nets after winning the championship, a still emotional Brown    was trying to let the magnitude of the moment sink in several minutes later.  “This is such a great feeling that I can’t describe it,” remarked Brown.  “It’s just been such a great run that I hate to see it end.”  When asked why the relatively new batch of players on the 2013-14 roster came together so well, the head coach was quick with an answer.  “These guys bought in to everything we told them,” said Gordon.  “They grasped it in November, they played together, they were unselfish, and they never let anything affect them negatively.  It’s an amazing group of kids, and this is the best team that I’ve ever had the chance to be a part of.”  The Bears will fly back to Phoenix Sunday afternoon from Illinois, and are scheduled to arrive at Terminal 4 at Sky Harbor Airport (with their new NJCAA Division II Championship Trophy) around 5:30PM Arizona time.