By Madison Sloan
This year marks a memorable season for the Flagler College men’s basketball team as they won their way into the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history.
After winning the Peachbelt Tournament and the South Region Championship, Flagler made its way to Indiana where they beat Truman State in the Elite Eight Tournament, securing their spot in the Final Four before falling to Northwest Missouri State.
Despite COVID-19 limiting guests from attending games throughout the season, the team was welcomed by over 50 fans in Indiana for the Elite Eight.
“We had a big fan base so it was pretty cool walking out of the arena and walking out of the hotel to everyone screaming for us,” said Blake Selland, assistant coach. “It was really incredible for all the guys to see the family and friends and fans there cheering for Flagler.”
During the game against Truman State, Chris Metzger, number 15, hit the game-winning free throw which put Flagler in the lead.
“Coach Warner looked at him on the court and said, ‘Make or miss Chris and no matter what happens I love you,’” said Selland.
The team ended up turning a six-point half-time deficit into a one-point victory, setting another record for the season.
“Even though it was a historic season, I don’t think it really set in for myself, the rest of the coaches and for the players how special it really was until it was over and we had time to reflect on the season,” said Kip Owens, assistant coach. “Until that point we were approaching the season as business as usual which is probably why we were able to go on the historic run that we did because we were tackling challenges one day at a time.”
Although Flagler did not make it into the National Championship, the team is already preparing for next season as they hope to break new records.
“If every single player and coach comes back and our team is the exact same then next season is a completely new season with an entire life of its own,” Owens said. “Next year just like every year, our goal is to be the very best version of our team that we can be.”
As the senior team leader, Jaizec Lottie had a lot of responsibility during the season and throughout the NCAA Tournament.
“Guys looked up to me and looked to me for a spark or whatever we needed at the time. It was a lot of pressure but at the end of the day that’s what I wanted and I knew what I had to do,” Lottie said.
After winning the Elite Eight, Lottie and his teammates felt nothing but excitement as they realized they were one of the top four teams in their division.
“It was a surreal feeling and I think the most memorable moment was when we won the Elite Eight game,” Lottie said. “We all went crazy since it was our first NCAA Tournament win and it was just a feeling I won’t forget.”
As player of the year, Lottie also became the first player at Flagler to be named to the NABC DII All-America Team and looks forward to continuing his college basketball career next season.
“This being a COVID year we all get an extra year and that makes it so exciting because we are going to come back stronger than ever,” Lottie said.