Campbellsville University Harrodsburg is the king of the hill in NCCAA (National Christian College Athletic Association) Division II men’s basketball, having defeated Crown College in the championship game 89-79. But interesting storylines lurk among those teams who exited the tournament earlier.
Here’s a look at three promising teams that are knocking on the proverbial door this season.
The Bulldogs, led by coach Michael McCarty, seeded highest in the Mideast Regional Tournament in program history. McCarty’s high-powered offense was led by junior Bailey Benham, a top-11 scorer in the league (18.3 ppg). Two sharpshooters, sophomore Brody Madeira and junior Tyler Nauert, ranked 12 and 13 respectively in shooting percentage beyond the arc. They both managed to shoot over 40% a clip which helped the team shoot 38.1 percent, the second-best in the league.
On the defensive end, junior Kevin Kirby and Madeira ranked top-10 in blocked shots, averaging one a game. Kirby also ranked No. 2 in rebounds, averaging 10.7. The Bulldogs had the eighth-best defensive team in the league due to McCarty and the young, talented team he has crafted.
They also ranked No. 6 in the final NCCAA power rating. The Bulldogs collected the most wins the program has had in the past five years and hope to use this momentum to their advantage in next year’s season.
Grace Christian University:
The Tigers have played at an elite level over the past three years, claiming their first national title in the 2019 season. Junior Kellum Bridgeforth has led the Tigers in points, rebounds, assists, and steals over the past two years. This season,he helped close out a win on the road against Welch College (77-66). Bridgeforth set a team-high in points, rebounds and assists throughout the game. He finished with 22, 7, and 7 while shooting an impressive 9-13 from the floor. His spectacular season also notched his 1,000 career point.
Alongside Bridgeforth are two younger players. Freshman Eli Carlson scored at a very efficient level, shooting 40% from downtown. Another freshman made his rookie season one to remember. Parker Neu saw the floor a lot and averaged 8.5 points on top of 4.8 rebounds.
Success has become more familiar in recent years for the Tigers, and their balance of veterans paired with a young core should set them up for success in next year's seasons and the ones that follow.
Central Christian College of the Bible:
Coach Jack Defreitas and the Saints have not seen a winning record since the 2015-106 season with a record of 19-14. However, this year had promise of a turnaround for the Saints as they finished 15-15 with a team composed of five first-year students and only two seniors. Defreitas knows what it takes to win as he has collected the most wins, 130, out of any coach in the program.
Freshman Jackson King averaged nearly 16 points while shooting 47% from the floor. Another young star, sophomore Andre Johnson, scored 11 points on 48.7% shooting while snatching an average of five rebounds. The two seniors leaving will have their spots filled by young players who already have had much experience.
The Saints shot better than their opponents from beyond the arc and from the line throughout the season. For CCC, the future is bright.
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