Normally this time of the year, the UT Tyler basketball players are headed to the beach or maybe they’re hitting the slopes.
This spring break is different. They will not be joining their fellow students at South Padre or in Aspen. Instead they are traveling to Walla Walla, Wash.
Washington usually does not come to mind when college students are taking a break from classes, but there’s no place these Patriots would rather be.
The UT Tyler hoops team is one of just 16 teams still playing in NCAA Division III.
Sweet 16 baby, as Dick Vitale would say.
And second-year Patriots coach Kevin Baker said, “only two percent of the schools are still playing” in D-III.
The No. 17 Patriots (27-3) take on No. 1 Thomas More (Ky.) College (30-0) Friday in Walla Walla.
Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. (CDT) at the Sherwood Athletic Center on the campus of Whitman College.
The second game has No. 7 Whitman (28-1) meeting No. 20 Christopher Newport (Va.) University at 9 p.m.
The winners advance to the Elite Eight, set for 9 p.m. Saturday.
The winner of the sectional will advance to the Final Four March 21-22 in Stevens Point, Wis.
Last week, the Patriots traveled to Memphis, Tenn., and this week it is Washington. They hope Wisconsin is next.
The Patriots and their seniors — 6-1 post She’Cara Humphrey (Pittsburg), 5-8 guard Breann McMillan (Arlington), 5-7 guard Taylor Murphy (Rogers, Ark.) and 5-3 guard Danai Woods (Lafayette, La.) — are happy to give up a week at the beach.
The mixture of senior leadership and an influx of young talent have the Patriots two wins away from the Final Four.
“I wish we could have done this last year, but we were just coming together in coach (Kevin) Baker’s first year,” said Woods, a marketing major. “This year we added a few more pieces to our family.”
All four seniors are quick to say the reason for the team’s success is the chemistry of the team.
“We were never satisfied with last year and we kept getting better and better,” said Murphy, a business-marketing major. “Coach Baker kept pushing us everyday in practice. Now, we believe in ourselves.
“We have really good team chemistry and really good players at all positions. ... We all know our roles, ... that is why we play so well together.”
PATRIOT POINTS: The Patriots will leave today for D/FW International Airport for their flight to Seattle. They will then take a plane from the Emerald City to Walla Walla.
Friday, March 14
Ferguson Recreation Center
At Madison, N.J.
Montclair State (N.J.) vs. Scranton (Pa.), 4 p.m.
Baldwin-Wallace (Ohio) vs. Fairleigh Dickinson-Florham (N.J.), 6 p.m.
At Medford, Mass.
Ithaca (N.Y.) vs. Amherst (Mass.), 4 p.m.
Tufts (Mass.) vs. Castleton State (Vt.), 6 p.m.
At Greencastle, Ind.
Wisconsin-Oshkosh vs. Wisconsin-Whitewater, 4 p.m.
Carthage (Wis.) vs. DePauw (Ind.), 6:30 p.m.
Sherwood Athletic Center
At Walla Walla, Wash.
UT Tyler vs. Thomas More (Ky.), 7 p.m.
Christopher Newport (Va.) vs. Whitman (Wash.), 9 p.m.