Spartanburg Methodist College fans and alumni gathered around the fountain Saturday afternoon to send the men’s basketball team back to “the Hutch.”
The Pioneers, regular-season and postseason champions of Region 10, are headed to Hutchinson, Kansas, to play in the National Junior College Athletic Association Division I tournament for the second time under head coach Jon Cremins.
While the SMC basketball team met for a 10 a.m. practice inside Bridges Arena, more than 200 prospective Pioneers were wandering about campus at an open house and 100 alumni were arriving for burgers and baseball. SMC president Scott Cochran would call that a successful day, but to cap it off by sending the men’s team to possibly capture a national championship, “it’s incredibly special.”
“Can we take a goofy one,” a player asked as they lined up for a team photo and unrolled a “Back to Hutch” banner. There were lots of smiles and laughter as fans snapped photos.
Blue and white pom poms and cowbells were handed out just moments before Cochran called everyone together for a few brief remarks and a time of prayer.
“These young men are getting ready to get on this bus, fly halfway across the country and represent everybody here, not only for basketball, but for what SMC stands for,” Cochran said.
The team and their well-wishers huddled, all hands in, as the team began to shout, “1-2-3, family.”
SMC (29-3) was seeded No. 16 in the 24-team tournament and will take on No. 17 seed Connors State (26-6) of Warner, Okla., at 11 a.m. EDT Monday.
One of only two South Carolina teams remaining in postseason play, the Pioneers are ready to see the payoff, assistant coach Nori Johnson said.
“This is a team of tough guys,” Johnson said. “This team has been battle-tested both on and off the court. Just to be able to go out there and compete with some of the highest-ranked teams in the country is extremely…