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March 13, 2014

NATIONAL TOURNAMENT MEDIA DAY: Cardinals head to the tournament for first time in 15 years

Athens — When it comes to March Madness, every team would love the opportunity to play in a national tournament.

For the No. 8-ranked Trinity Valley Community College Cardinals, they return to the tournament for the first time in 15 years.

For coach Kris “Bucket” Baumann, this is his first time back to the tournament since the 2008-09 season.

“Hopefully, this is the starting point for us and we can go to the national tournament every year,” Baumann said. “I know the administration is excited and I think when it is all said and done our coaches will look back and think it has been a successful year.”

The Cardinals finished out the regular season at 27-6 overall after a runner-up finish in the regional tournament. This will be the fourth appearance in the national tournament and their first since 1999.

TVCC will play Pratt CC (Kan.) in the opening round on Monday at 4:30 p.m. at the Hutchinson Sports Complex.

“The emotions will be big because when I was transferring to schools, I actually got a scholarship from Pratt to go play,” sophomore Kevin Jordan said. “I chose to play here and it will be big since it will be my first game in the national tournament so I will play strong.”

Baumann said Monday night's opener will be a big game for the program.

“We have our hands full and we play the Kansas team Pratt — which I have some familiarity with — so it will feel like playing a road game for us,” Baumann said. “We are excited to still play basketball and we are one of 24 teams in the country to still be playing basketball junior college wise.”

Sophomore guard Patrick Ingram said when they heard the news he was relieved to play in the tournament.

“It is real important because this is what we have wanted from the beginning of the season,” Ingram said. “I know practices will be more intense and we have got to get it together this week.”

For freshman Dedrick Basile, he was hoping the call would come in from the selection committee for an at-large bid.

“It was big because I really did not think we would actually get in the tournament,” Basile said. “It just makes me want to work harder now that we are playing.”

He said with the possibility of five more games in the tournament, he has one goal in mind.

“We are trying to get them out of there and bury every team in the tournament,” Basile said. “We are going to take this one game at a time and play defense and hope to win some games.”

Following an MVP season in Region XIV play, sophomore Octavius Ellis returns as the only player from last year's team.

“It feels good and when I decided on coming back he told me that he would bring in some guys that could help me and make it to the national tournament,” Ellis said. “During the summer, that was mine and Coach Bucket's goals was to make sure that I could work as hard as I could to lead the guys in the right direction.”

Jordan said he is hoping to be playing deep into next week.

“If we can make an extended run into the championship game, it would be huge for the program and hopefully we can start something big,” Jordan said.

For freshman Dilepso Blanco, the big stage of the national tournament is something he is looking forward to on Monday afternoon.

“I am going to be happy for the competition level and to showcase my talent,” he said. “I will be really excited about that and happy for the opportunity.”

Baumann said the coaching staff will stress one thing to the guys the remainder of the week.

“We have to play well and if we do that we can advance,” Baumann said. “We will play this as a two-game tournament and if we win those we will play it as a new tournament starting Thursday.”

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