03/10/08 — MOC Earns Regional bids

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MOC Earns Regional bids

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on March 10, 2008 2:30 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Keona Corley knew this day would come.

Her teammates did, too.

A strong season-ending run, capped by a stirring upset of No. 12-ranked Anderson (S.C.) University, earned the Mount Olive College women's basketball team a ticket to the NCAA Division II East Regional. The Trojans (20-10 overall) drew the No. 8 seed and oppose tournament host Indiana (Pa.) University.

"We're in this position because we all have this common goal," said Corley, a senior point guard. "Everybody is focused, wants the same thing and it's been that way since the beginning of the year. We're a family. We want to do it for each other and not just for ourselves."

The Trojan men seized the No. 2 seed in the eight-team East Regional at California (Pa.) University. Mount Olive (24-6) faces seventh-seeded Pittsburg-Johnston (W. Va.) in the opening round.

It's the Trojans' fifth consecutive postseason appearance.

"It's very exciting, but I was kind of hoping for the number one seed so we can stay at home," said senior Montel Jones, the lone holdover from Mount Olive's Elite Eight team in 2005. "This year has been awesome and this is one of the greatest teams I've ever played on.

"We're one big family and we get better every game we play ... attitude-wise and ability-wise."

One of 21 teams to earn automatic bids to the playoffs, the Trojan women felt confident about their chances -- especially Corley. The addition of Division I transfer Lakeisha Monroe and a strong nucleus of returning players convinced Corley that Mount Olive could experience a record-setting season.

She was right.

The Trojans set program marks for victories (20) and conference wins (16), and claimed their first-ever conference tournament crown. The team also won road games at Belmont Abbey, archrival Barton and Anderson, which have been three of the league's marquee programs during the past decade.

"I'm really excited for the girls ... to see all the hard work paying off and making history in our program," said eighth-year MOC women's coach Wendy Lee. "I haven't had any team work any harder in every game this season than this team."

Mount Olive was not ranked in the East Region poll during regular-season play. The Trojans' historical run eliminated the previous No. 8-ranked team, Clarion (Pa.), from postseason consideration.

In other first-round games, second-seeded California (Pa.) battles seventh-seeded Millersville (Pa.); third-seeded Anderson opposes sixth-seeded Fairmont State and fourth-seeded West Liberty State meets fifth-seeded Shepherd.

Less than three weeks ago, Mount Olive's men tumbled from the top spot among East Region teams and nose-dived out of the NABC top 25 poll. Back-to-back, regular-season losses against Limestone (S.C.) and archrival Barton nearly put the Trojans on the tournament bubble.

But Mount Olive rebounded to win its first-ever Conference Carolinas tournament in school history.

"We were really playing excellent basketball and we hit a cold spot with the Limestone game," said MOC men's coach Bill Clingan. "We've rebounded from that and moved on to get our second wind at this point in time. We're happy to be in the tournament.

"I think we're in a good bracket and there will obviously be tough competition. We have to prepare ourselves and I think our schedule has also prepared us for the regionals."

In other first-round games, top-seeded California (Pa.) faces Conference Carolinas tournament runner-up Queens; fourth-seeded Alderson-Broaddus faces fifth-seeded Cheyney and third-seeded Edinboro (Pa.) takes on Millersville (Pa.). The regional winner advances to the Elite Eight in Springfield, Mass.