For the second straight year, Park will be going dancing in downtown Kansas City, Mo.
The Pirates received one of 32 bids to the NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship tournament, held downtown in historic Municipal Auditorium. They have now qualified for the tournament in four of the past 11 seasons under coach Jason Kline, including the back-to-back trips.
Park was scheduled to open against Georgetown (Ky.) in a rematch of a 2010 first round championship matchup. Tip was scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 15. The winner between fourth-seeded Georgetown (23-7) and fifth-seeded Park advances to play either No. 1-seeded William Penn (30-3) or No. 8-seeded William Penn (Iowa) at 2:15 p.m. on Friday, March 17.
Overall, Park makes its seventh trip to the national tournament, owning a 5-6 record all time.
“It’s tough to even make this tournament. Everyone is good when you get to this point in the season,” Kline said. “We have some guys who are very hungry and have worked very hard to get here. Georgetown has been incredibly tough to beat all year, and I think it’s a matchup of two teams that are a tough out. We are hoping for a great atmosphere and an unforgettable experience for our kids.”
Park enters the postseason ranked No. 18 in the final NAIA Division I poll of the regular season, down one from the last regular-season poll, while Georgetown also dropped, from No. 12 to No. 15.
After finishing second in the American Midwest Conference, Park lost in the conference tournament semifinals to Harris-Stowe — also a qualifier for the national tournament. The Pirates have a 21-7 overall record.
Park senior Xavielle Brown (Fort Wayne, Ind.) again leads the Pirates, having earned AMC player of the year honors for a second consecutive season. Also the league’s freshman of the year in 2012-13, Brown split the player of the year award as a junior, but he received nine first place votes this year.
Brown played in 22 games this season and led the AMC at just under 21 points per game, while leading Park at 6.8 rebounds per game. He became the third in Pirates’ history to eclipse the 2,000-point mark for his career with 41 points in an AMC first round win over Lyon (Ark.) at The Breck in Parkville, Mo.
Walter Bethea and Beville Taitte are the only other members, and Brown now ranks third all-time with 2,050.
“What can you say about a guy like (Brown)? He does everything you can ask of a student-athlete — in the classroom, in the program, on the practice court, in games,” Kline said. “He will tell you right now, if you ask him, that (the win over Lyon) is more important to him than a career high or a career milestone. He’s a guy that’s addicted to winning, and he showed tonight why he’s our leader.”
BJ Watson (Kansas City, Kan.) joined Brown on the All-AMC first team after leading Park with 75 3-pointers and 54 steals. He also led the Pirates in scoring with Brown out due to injury early in the season.
Josh Rutland (Indianapolis, Ind.) and Ikem Eriobuna (Lagos, Nigeria) were honorable mention All-AMC selections for Park. Rutland and Watson tied for the team lead with 116 assists, while Eriobuna blocked 52 shots and averaged 8.5 points and 4.9 rebounds per game.
Wednesday’s game will air at NAIANetwork.com with a simulcast to air on the Pirate Sports Network at www.parkathletics.tv. Visit www.naianetwork.com for subscription and pay-per-view details.
The NAIA Network — the association’s official video streaming home — will broadcast all 30 games live leading up to the championship final on ESPN3. The video platform, powered by Stretch Internet, allows users access to live video, statistics, and social interaction on a number of devices, including mobile.
Single day passes can be purchased for $9.95, while an all-tournament package is available at $29.95. For more information on the 2017 NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship, including ticket information, go to www.NAIAHoops.com.