Braves set standard

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 1, 2006

MURFREESBORO – The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Chowan five that day.

When the Chowan College men’s basketball team broke for the Christmas holiday in 2005, they sat at 3-8 on the season. It wasn’t nearly the near .500 record fourth-year skipper Jim Tribbett had hoped for.

&uot;I had said all along that looking at our schedule, if we had won five games at the break, we would be looking at a special season,&uot; Tribbett said. &uot;Being independent made scheduling difficult. We had to play when and where we could and I knew the first semester would be tough.&uot;

Then things happened.

Aaron Scott transferred into the program. Marcus Artis stepped up and took on a key role on the team. Trayvon Lathan got the help he had needed.

The Braves returned from the break and knocked off Salisbury and Misericordia in the Great Ships Tournament January 6 and 7. They then stopped North Carolina Wesleyan and Maryland Bible College before rolling off wins against Chafin University and Newport News Apprentice.

&uot;We had some wins when we came back, but didn’t necessarily play well,&uot; Tribbett said. &uot;We put together six minutes to close out the game and it was enough.

&uot;At the same time, you’re looking at three wins and you say great and then five and you’re happy to be back at .500,&uot; he said. &uot;The next thing you know we’ve won six in a row and are matching up with Elizabeth City State.&uot;

The Braves used a last-second shot by Scott to knock of ECSU at the Helms Center January 24. That win became a defining moment for the Chowan season.

&uot;I think the win that stamped that we were on our way was the win at home against Elizabeth City,&uot; Tribbett said. &uot;The community and the students identified with that because they have an outstanding athletic program and school.

&uot;I think for many people, it was when college basketball arrived in Murfreesboro,&uot; he added. &uot;After that the team had a little swagger.&uot;

After that win, the Braves beat Chafin again before thumping Millersville, a team that had won in Murfreesboro, by a 76-57 count.

&uot;We went to Millersville after they had beaten us here and it’s 12-12,&uot; the coach said. &uot;I look up and it’s 60-35. Trayvon was just spectacular.

&uot;We then drive nine hours to UNC-Pembroke and beat a scrappy club on the road,&uot; he said. &uot;At that point we were playing well; playing the right way.&uot;

The Braves then beat Wesleyan again and Newport News before falling at Elizabeth City and Barton.

&uot;If you ask what is the most amazing thing about this season, I think it is that we played 30 games, 23 of them on the road, and won 19,&uot; Tribbett insisted. &uot;Then, after losing back-to-back games, we go back on the road and win four of five to finish third in the nation.&uot;

After concluding the regular season, Chowan went to the National Christian College Athletic Association South Region tournament in South Carolina. There, the top-seeded Braves knocked off Palm Beach Atlantic and Emmanuel to secure the regional title and a bid to the NCCAA national tournament.

The Braves then knocked off Central Baptist before falling to host Oakland City. They blew out Roberts Wesleyan in the third place game by a count of 85-59.

Finishing third in a national tournament helped the Braves’ program in many ways, according to the coach.

&uot;Number one it gives us some credibility,&uot; he said. &uot;Second, it caps off a season and especially a second semester that was special to this program.&uot;

Tribbett also said it was great for the athletes to be a part of making history. The Braves set more than 10 records during the 2005-2006 campaign.

Their 12 consecutive wins were the most in program history while 19 was the largest number of victories for a four-year men’s basketball team at the school.

The Braves beat a member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II ranks for the first time (St. Paul’s, 85-68) and beat natural rival Elizabeth City State for the first time in school history.

It was also the program’s first NCCAA regional championship, first win in a national tournament and the highest finish in a national tournament.

Also, Lathan became men’s basketball’s first All-American (at the four-year level) and Tribbett was the first National Coach of the Year since joining the NCCAA.

The Braves’ also set a four-year school attendance record against ECSU and had their first player named to a national all-tournament team.

Tribbett said he was honored at being named National Coach of the Year, but gave the credit to those around him, including his team, assistant coach C.J. Donnelly, his wife Sally and his son Johnny.

&uot;Without them, I couldn’t have been recognized for anything,&uot; he said.

The Braves rallied from a slow start to set multiple records and become the most successful team in the four-year history of men’s basketball at Chowan College.