Incredible journey: CEU Golden Eagles' magical mystery ride
How did they do it? Guts, heart, tenacity, perhaps a little bit of luck, oh and, of course, some extremely talented play and coaching by all concerned.
The College of Eastern Utah was not picked to win the Scenic Western Athletic Conference title, let alone make it into the National Junior College Athletic Association's field of 16 clubs vying for the ju-co championship.
Once in the tourney, the club surprised everyone but themselves with convincing victories in its first two games, a heartbreaking loss in its third (remember, CEU was four points away from a championship game appearance) and a thrilling overtime triumph in the fourth battle to claim sole possesion of third-place, the best finish in the program's history.
Here's a synopsis of what got the Eagles to this point:
CEU vs. North Platte (Neb.)
The team made history on Tuesday, March 16 in Hutchinson, Kan. after winning its first game in the NJCAA national tournament, 71-62, defeating North Platte Community College. It was their first appearance in the NJCAA tournament in 45 years.
Freshman Michael Glover poured in 25 points while freshman Jonathan Mills hit a huge three-pointer to put the game away
CEU vs. Wallace State (Ala.)
The College of Eastern Utah trailed early in its game against Wallace State Community College (Ala.) on Thursday, March 18 before settling down to close the gap and pull away for an 82-66 win in the quarterfinals of the NJCAA tournament.
Fouls played a huge role in the game giving the Eagles 22 points from the charity line. Jonathan Mills led the Eagles with a game-high 19 points, while teammate Michael Glover poured in 16.
CEU vs. Howard
A 21-1 scoring run with just four minutes left in regulation lifted Howard to a 68-64 win over Eastern Utah in Friday night's second semifinal game at the Hutchinson Sports Arena.
Down by one with 55 seconds left when Josh Watkins intercepted a pass and took it in for a lay-up, was fouled and made a free throw to give Howard a 66-64 lead with 43 seconds left.
Michael Glover led the Eagles with 21 points, while Isiah Williams recorded 11 points.