From Paul Najjar at Catholic Sports Net. Photos by Bill Brymer
All this season, the theme for the No. 3-ranked Bellarmine Knights men’s basketball team has been “family.” It took the entire family, along with 2,200 of its closest friends, to take down No. 15 Indianapolis 81-72 in the NCAA Division II Midwest Regional championship game Tuesday night at Knights Hall.
This game had all you could want for a title tilt: eight tie scores, three lead changes and several big momentum swings. But when the chips were against them, it kept coming back to the close bonds of the Bellarmine family — all 17 players, four coaches, two managers, the team trainer, strength coach and team priest — to ignite another rally and pull out the win.
Not to mention the absolute mayhem that the crowd created with every mini-run from the home team, every slick pass for a layup, every outstanding possession on offense or defense. And it all culminated with a family celebration like no other for these players and all associated with the team.
“This is why you coach,” an emotional Bellarmine head coach Scott Davenport said. “It’s a tremendous university, a phenomenal group of young men and the greatest fans in all of basketballat any level. These players earned this opportunity, and they earned this together. They deserve every bit of the credit.”
Among those included in the Bellarmine family is Patrick McSweeney, a sophomore at St. Xavier High School who has been part of the Knights’ program since the beginning of the season. The young cancer survivor even got to cut down his own piece of championship net.
Adding to the intensity of this battle was Bellarmine’s near-identical twin team in UIndy. Coach Stan Gouard’s squad plays as hard and tough as any team in the country and they share the basketball in Bellarmine-like fashion. It was the 11th meeting in the past three seasons between these two Great Lakes Valley Conference rivals, with eight of those coming in the past two years. Bellarmine has won seven of them.
“These seniors and the three captains started this on the bus ride back from Drury last year,” Davenport said. “They carried it over from that point on. They deserve all the credit in the world.”