The Mount Vernon Nazarene College men's basketball team made its final preparations on Wednesday as the Cougars arrived at Gardner-Webb University and prepared to compete in the 2002 National Christian College Athletic Association National Tournament.
MVNC (21-11) is the third seed in the eight-team event that gets under way on Thursday with first round action. The Cougars will square off with sixth-seeded Warner Pacific (Ore.) College in the opening game of the tournament at 2:00 p.m.
MVNC, which has won nine of its last 11 games, earned the program's second trip to the NCCAA National Tournament by defeating Roberts Wesleyan (N.Y.) College 99-98 in the NCCAA East Region championship game on March 2.
Junior guard Phil Argento leads the Cougars in scoring at 18.5 points per game while nailing a team-high 116 three-pointers and shooting 87.4 percent at the free throw line. Senior forward Kenny Chaffin adds 18.4 points and a team-high 8.7 rebounds per game to go along with 65 blocked shots. Seniors Lenny Foyer, a forward, and Andy Gast, a guard, average 8.4 points and 7.4 points per game respectively, while senior point guard Chad Vorhis has dished out 168 assists, which ranks him ninth in the NCCAA.
Warner Pacific, the Northwest Region champion, will enter the tournament with a 20-15 overall record. The Knights, who shoot nearly 40 percent from beyond the three-point arc as a team, are led by sophomore forward Andrew Twiss (18.4 points per game and 80 treys). Junior guard Demarcus Best averages 4.3 assists per game, and sophomore guard Nick Hudson has nailed 55 three-pointers while shooting 43.7 percent from beyond the arc. Senior guard Adam Decker has also drained 55 treys.
In other first round match-ups, fourth-seeded Cedarville University will face fifth-seeded Asbury (Ky.) College at 4:00 p.m., second-seeded North Greenville (S.C.) will take on seventh-seeded Oklahoma Wesleyan University at 6:00 p.m., and top-seeded and defending national champion Gardner-Webb will meet up with eighth-seeded Trinity Christian (Ill.) College at 8:30 p.m.
Cedarville, the Midwest Region champion, enters the tournament with a 21-15 record after knocking off Grace (Ind.) College 72-71 to earn a berth. The Yellow Jackets are led by sophomore guard Josh Gast, who averages 15.4 points and 5.1 rebounds per game while nailing 72 treys. Senior forward David Dingeman adds 13.0 points per game, while sophomore forward Barry Chamberlin contributes 12.7 points and 9.4 rebounds per contest. Freshman guard Jason Weakley rounds out the double figure scores with a 10.5 points per game average to go along with 4.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists.
Asbury, the Mideast Region champion, comes into the tournament with a 23-9 record - the most wins of any team in the field. The Eagles are one of the top defensive teams in the NCCAA as they allow just 68.9 points per game. Junior guard Ronnie Brown leads the team in rebounding at 8.4 boards per game, while junior guard Ryan Heidinger is the most accurate three-point shooter in the NCCAA as he has nailed 48.5 percent of his attempts from long range (33-of-68). Senior guard Will Shouse has also nailed a team-high 116 treys.
North Greenville, which received the only at-large berth in the tournament, brings a 15-11 record to the event. The Crusaders are the third-best free throw shooting team in the NCCAA at 75.9 percent, and they average 73.2 points while giving up 72.0 points. Junior guard Beau Trauger averages a team-best 4.5 assists per game.
Oklahoma Wesleyan, the Central Region champion, enters play with a 20-13 record. The Eagles are led by senior guard Larry French, who averages 20.3 points per game and has nailed 62 treys. Junior guard Anthony Swinton leads the team by averaging 5.9 assists, while junior forward Kenroy Smith is the team leader in rebounding by grabbing 9.1 boards per game.
Gardner-Webb, an NCAA Division I school and the South Region champion, is currently 21-8. The Runnin' Bulldogs are in the midst of an 11-game winning streak, and they have won 31 straight home games dating back to the 1999-2000 season. Senior forward Bruce Fields leads the team by averaging 12.8 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game. Senior guards James Colwell and Chas Criss add 11.9 points and 10.7 points per game respectively, while freshman forward Otis Daniels contributes 10.1 points and 5.1 rebounds per game.
Trinity Christian, the North Central Region champion, advanced to the tournament by upsetting perennial power Bethel (Ind.) College in overtime. The Trolls (15-19) feature the second-leading scorer in the NCCAA in senior forward Kevin Koeman, who averages 22.9 points per game and shoots an amazing 65.3 percent from the field (284-of-435).
On Friday, there will be two losers' bracket games at 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. followed by the tournament semifinals at 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. On Saturday, the fifth-place game will take place at 3:00 p.m. followed by the third-place game at 4:30 p.m. The national championship game will tip off at 7:00 p.m.