AC News Service
Angelina College’s Shands Gymnasium will be the site of a little March Madness, junior-college style.
Conference and AC officials confirmed recently the college will host the Region XIV conference basketball tournament scheduled to run March 1-5, 2016. The tournament will feature the top 12 men’s teams and the top 10 women’s teams from the conference, with the winners and at-large bids heading to the national tournaments in Hutchinson and Salina, Kansas, respectively.
For Angelina College, the event will mark the fifth conference tournament on its home digs in the past five years, having hosted both baseball and softball tournaments. However, this is the first time in 11 years AC has played host to the hoops tourney.
Todd Neighbors, the Roadrunners’ head basketball coach, said area fans are in for both a boost in the local economy and five full days of non-stop basketball excitement.
“We’re glad to have it back, there’s no question,” Neighbors said. “It’s going to be tremendous for the community, the college and the conference. We have a beautiful facility, and I think our community can certainly support this type of event.
“I think our community is going to get to see our conference, and how tough it is, on a very high stage. Every year there’s 50 to 55 guys from our league who sign to play at Division I schools. We see that when those teams come in to play us individually, but to have it all in one setting is going to be fun to watch. It’s certainly going to build some excitement for the fans in our area.”
The tournament, no matter where it takes place, tends to draw some of the biggest names in college basketball. Neighbors said that on any tournament day, one can expect to see between 75-100 coaches from such conferences as the Big XII and the SEC, among others.
“It’s a tremendous platform for our players and our college,” Neighbors said.
Naturally, the Roadrunners and Lady Roadrunners are hoping the home-court advantage will help their chances of performing well over those five days. Lady Roadrunner head coach Byron Coleman said the tournament won’t just be a boost for the area; his players are already excited about the opportunity to perform before their own fans.
“There’s nothing like playing on your home court,” Coleman said. “We have a chance to play in front of our home-town crowd, and the crowd gets a chance to watch some high-quality basketball for five days. Some of the best junior-college basketball in the United States takes place in this conference, and I think our fans in the area are going to love it. It’s such a high level of play. Some of these kids will move on to the university level, and don’t be surprise if some of them move up to play professionally. There’ll be some future stars here from both the men and women sides.
“It’s something our town can be proud of. We’ve hosted this tournament before, and you have to give credit to the community and our staff. We’ve done a fabulous job hosting these events, and we know what we’re doing. It’ll be a Grade A event for sure.”
The Lady ‘Runners are especially fond of the Shands Gymnasium floor: In 2014-2015, the team lost just two home games, with both of those losses to nationally ranked teams by a combined five points. AC’s ladies also managed a major upset over Trinity Valley, snapping TVCC’s 70-game conference winning streak.
But to play at home, both coaches know they first have to qualify for the tournament over the regular season’s four grueling months.
“Hopefully, (making the tournament) will be something fun for us to shoot for,” Coleman said. “The kids will want to play in front of the home crowd. We played very well here last year, so we’re going to use that as motivation.”
Neighbors, fielding an entire team of new faces, agreed.
“We’re a totally new team, and I think it will play to our advantage to have the tournament here,” Neighbors said. “It will allow our guys to perform at home. Yes, they’ll be hyped because it’s the tournament, but they’ll still be sleeping in their own beds and we won’t have to travel.
“It’s a benefit, but it does bring pressure to get there and win the first game. Anything can happen after that.”
The e-mail address for Angelina College’s Sports Information Director is firstname.lastname@example.org.