It’s been a memorable run for the Grambling State Tigers. Winning nine of their last 11 games, the Tigers entered the SWAC tournament scorching. Donald Qualls’s 35 point performance against No. 2 seed Jackson State, led the Tigers to the SWAC Championship game against the Alabama State Hornets.
Aiming for new heights, Tiger coach Bobby Washington Jr. was looking to take his team somewhere that Grambling has never been before; the NCAA tournament.
The Tigers knew if they came out victorious in the final game in Garland, Texas, then it would be the first time in Grambling’s 110 year history that the men’s basketball team would make an appearance in the NCAA tournament.
Grambling was in the pursuit of making history, while Alabama State Hornets were looking to repeat history. The Hornets represented the SWAC in NCAA tournament four times in the school’s history, most recently in 2009.
With that being in the minds of the entire team, how do the Tigers respond? They hit the hardwood with their hard hats and went to work but fell short 65-48.
The Hornets jumped on the Tigers in the beginning of the game with a 10-4 run in the first five minutes, but the Tigers would rally back.
Justin Patton ended the Hornets run with a lay-up that sparked a 6-0 Tiger run that tied the game at the 13:46 mark. The game was neck and neck throughout the first half with Grambling leading, 28-26.
The turning point of the game came in the second half. The Hornets jumped out on the Tigers, and did not let up. The G-Men scored only seven points in 15 minutes to Alabama States 28.
“When our big guy [P.J. Roberson] got in foul trouble that was the turning point,” said Steve Favors, assistant to the athletics director for promotions, marketing and advancement. “His presence caused them to hesitate and that’s all you need.”
Even though the Tigers came up short it can be said that they were ahead of their time. At the beginning of the season spectators wrote off the the team.
The Tigers are a fairly young team with only three seniors and nine new players. You would have thought this would be a rebuilding season for Coach Washington, but instead he did the unthinkable and led his team to the SWAC finals. Thus gave his young team a great deal of experience.
“We know exactly what we need to do now,” said Coach Washington. “We are going to use this experience to just keep our guys bonded.”
Coach Washington already has his guys in the gym and is looking forward to next season.
He calls his team “Unfinished Business,” so they can have the understanding that although they did well there’s more to accomplish.
The Alabama State Hornets recieved and automatic bid to the big dance where they where defeated in the first round by the University of Texas-San Antonio 70-61.