After winning Region XV and District III Championships, the 2002-03 Monroe College Mustangs men’s basketball team has qualified for the five-day “sweet sixteen” National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association National Championship Tournament beginning March 18 in Hutchinson, Kansas. The number 17-ranked, Mustangs (28-2) will play their first-round game against number 6- ranked, South Plains College (31-2) on Tuesday, March 18 at 5:30pm.
“This is an extremely exciting time for the Monroe community”, said first-year head coach Jeff Brustad. “The challenge in Kansas will be tremendous because we’ll be competing with the fifteen best junior college teams in the country.” The Mustangs’ road to Kansas began with three tough playoff wins. On Saturday, March 1, the Mustangs played Region XV rival Westchester Community College on WCC’s home court. Bolstered by 30 points and 11 assists from Tournament and Region MVP Kevin Bell and 20 points and 7 rebounds from Kingsley Edwards, the Mustangs won the Region XV championship, 92-85.
Next up was the District III Tournament in Aiken, South Carolina. Supported by a large and loud contingent of Mustang fans who ventured down south from the Bronx to root for their team, on Friday March 6 Monroe defeated tourney hosts, Aiken Technical College, 82-72 in the semifinal game.
Four Mustangs were in double figures in that one, led by Bell’s 19 points. In the final game the next day, the Mustangs won the District III championship with a thrilling 93-85 win over Louisburg College. Again Bell was high man with 25 points, but four other Mustangs were in double figures. High-flying Ryan Williams was named tourney MVP, as many of the Carolinians were aghast at his remarkable aerial show that has become a staple of Mustang games. “The Mustangs have a right to be proud of their accomplishments, “said Monroe President Stephen Jerome. “They exemplify what is best about our college. With the support of faculty, staff, and the student body, they’ve dreamed big and made it come true.”
This is Monroe’s fourth year as an NJCAA Division I team and first Division I national tournament appearance. In 1998, Monroe became the first NY City men’s college basketball team since 1950 to reach a national championship game (in the Division III title game, the Mustangs lost to Fergus Falls, Minn. in overtime).