Top seed Hillsdale MBB to open NCCAA D-II national tournament on Thursday

The Hillsdale Baptist men’s basketball team made it all the way to the title game last season.

The Saints hope to complete the run to take the championship trophy back to Moore in 2016.

Hillsdale is the top seed at the National Christian College Athletic Association Division II men’s basketball national tournament.navy and gold logo TRANS

The 10-team field opened play on Wednesday in Ankeny, Iowa, on the campus of Faith Bible College. Seventh seeded Pensacola Christian defeated the tenth seeded host school, 72-53. And the No. 8 seed Johnson University (Tenn.) won, 97-87, over No. 9 seed Central Christian (Mo.).

Hillsdale will face Johnson on Thursday at 1:30 p.m. Saints coach Mark Berokoff had the chance to scout his team’s opponent.

“Johnson University has been ranked in the top 10 all season long, so it was no surprise for us to see them win,” Berokoff said. “They press the entire game. They have an All-American (Kenny White, All-American honorable mention) that averages 20 points per game and they’re also the second leading scoring team in the country.

“So we have our hands full. It’s a tough game as the No. 1 seed playing the No. 8 seed that’s pretty good. We’ll be ready, but they’re a good team and we’ll have our hands full.”

But Berokoff brings a solid group of his own to the tournament with the No. 1 team in the country, led by First Team All-American and NCCAA Player of the Year, Trey Sneed.

“I want to say that’s the first time in the history of the school to have (the National Player of the Year),” Berokoff said. “It’s quite an honor and a very deserving honor for him. He’s had some great numbers and I’m really excited for him and the program.”

Berokoff himself was recognized for his part this season and was named the NCCAA National Coach of the Year in Division II.NCCAA1

But he and the Saints are ready for the task at hand this week, coming off a loss in the Association of Christian College Athletics national tournament championship game last weekend in Joplin, Mo. Hillsdale fell, 103-93, in the final.

“We played Dallas Christian, who we’ve already beaten three times, and they were extremely excited and up for the game,” Berokoff said. “That tends to happen.”

Berokoff said his team has been preparing well for the week ahead.

“I think we had our eyes set on going to Iowa. We didn’t play well and we didn’t defend well. So for the last three or four days since we’ve been here in Iowa, we’ve really worked defensively on getting better on some things.

“Our kids are excited and ready to go. This is the tournament that we’ve been working for and working to qualify for since August.”

The Saints will have the opportunity to see it through starting Thursday.

 

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