College basketball teams need talent, good coaching and sometimes a little luck to win. But to win big - to win when it counts - takes a special kind of heart and determination.
It takes looking beyond the hype, reaching deep and pulling out the very best.
The USC Aiken Pacers men’s basketball team showed that Tuesday night when it defeated Barton 82-75 in the championship game of the Division II NCAA Tournament Southeast Regional to advance to the Elite Eight.
Now they play for a spot in the Final Four in Louisville, Ky. Win there and the Pacers move to the final round - the championship round - in Philips Arena in Atlanta.
They have a long way to go, but this victory, and the rest of the journey for this scrappy, once underrated team, deserves our fan support.
The Pacers have done well the past few years under head coach Vince Alexander. They’ve made it to the national stage, but never this big. In 2009, Alexander took the squad as far as the “Sweet Sixteen” of college basketball, and the team has won three Peach Belt Conference Tournament Championships.
“The milestone we want is in Atlanta,” Alexander said Tuesday of the national championship game. “If we get that, we might go crazy. But we’re going to enjoy tonight … tomorrow we’re moving on, and God willing, we’ll win a national championship.”
Despite the wins and impressive history, the Pacers weren’t expected to go this far this year. Heck, they weren’t even ranked in the Top 20 a week ago. Now look at them. Could they be called a “Cinderella Team?” No, they knew they had it in them to pull this off.
“We’ve been disrespected all year. No one believes in us but us,” Alexander said after the win Tuesday. “It means a lot. This team has worked its tail off all year.”
Yes, you have. Enjoy the moment Pacers and know that your community is so proud of you.