Spartanburg Methodist was the first team to qualify for the NJCAA men’s basketball championship tournament. And SMC was the first team out.
HUTCHINSON, Kan. — Spartanburg Methodist was the first team to qualify for the NJCAA men’s basketball championship tournament.
And SMC was the first team out.
The Pioneers lost the opening game here at the Hutchinson Sports Arena, 96-90, to Connors State College (Okla.) after the Cowboys overcame a 12-point deficit in the second half. SMC players were showered and packed-up before noon local time, wondering how their trip could have ended so suddenly.
“We had it. We were in a good place,” said SMC sophomore Zach Watson from Greenville (J.L. Mann High). “I felt like we blinked and it was over.”
Two whistles equaled one turning point.
The first was a charging call on Jonathan Sanks of SMC as he went for the game-tying basket in the final minute. The second was a technical foul on Sanks for saying out loud what he should have said under his breath. That caused a five-point swing and Connors State was on its way to face No. 1 seed San Jacinto (Texas) on Tuesday.
“I’m not going to lie to you. It hurts,” Sanks said. “We prepared well. We felt like we had a good chance. It hurts to be the first one to lose. Nobody likes to lose.”
Sanks, about the charging foul, said he was disappointed in himself for not passing the ball and not in the referee as they both headed to the other side of the court.
“A lot of times during a game, I talk to myself,” Sanks said. “I look down at the floor and say something like, ‘Come on J, get going.’ After the charge, I was looking at the floor saying, ‘Come on J, that was some bull.’ I looked up and the ref was staring at my face. I was like, ‘I know he didn’t just give me a tech.’ I said, ‘I wasn’t talking to you. I was talking to myself.’ But that’s how the cookie…