By Tucker Cergol and Wilson Wong
As the game clock struck zero on March 7 in Brockport’s gym, it almost seemed like it was too good to be true. After beating Middlebury 84-81, the Brockport men’s basketball team was heading to the sweet 16 in the NCAA Division III tournament for the first time since 2007.
Turns out, it was too good to be true. The team’s season came to an abrupt end because of the coronavirus pandemic.
This disease has been spreading rapidly. It has caused many people to have to work from home, schools have closed, and almost all sports have come to a stop. This includes college sports, and the NCAA division III tournament. Brockport knew that this year was special. Marty Czekala, the play by play commentator who calls the games for the video stream for the Golden Eagles, knew this team was different.
“In all my years of calling basketball games for a specific team, I’ve never seen a team, whether it’s been this good or been on a dream run, as good as the Brockport Golden Eagles were this year,” Czekala said.
Before the tournament ended, Brockport was on their way to breaking records. The Golden Eagles had 26 wins, were 15-0 at home, and were on a 19-game winning streak, which tied the school record.
Even though Brockport’s season ended this way, everybody knows this is the decision that had to be made. Every major sports organization has suspended or canceled their seasons for the foreseeable future. Antonio Alvarez, a junior on the men’s team, knows that stopping the tournament was the only thing that could be done.
“When they decided to cancel it was devastating, but looking back on it now we received a lot of love from the community and administrators, and we are now starting to reflect on what a crazy year we had,” Alvarez said.
Going undefeated at home and tying the record for the longest winning streak in school history is impressive. Even though Brockport had high hopes and wanted to accomplish more, they still had a very rare and phenomenal season. The team was even featured on SportsCenter on ESPN in their “senior night” segment twice.
This much success makes the abrupt end even more heartbreaking for the team and the fans. However, head coach Greg Dunne supports the move of not having the tournament. Dunne understands the dangers of this pandemic and while the team would have preferred to play out the tournament, not playing is the right move.
“The NCAA was the last major sports organization to do this. I think they made the right move. I think it would have been pretty weird playing games when every single other sport was shut down,” Dunne said. “Health is everything. If this is what needed to be done, then I fully support it.”
For some people, sports are something that make them see the bigger picture. Dunne knows that in some cases society believes sports isn’t reality, and when something like this happens, it makes sports fans and athletes take a step back and realize that this pandemic is something that is effecting everybody.
“When you see athletes getting this and seeing all these sports organizations suspending their season, that’s what made this real,” Dunne said. “Sports in a lot of instances isn’t real world, it just catches a lot of people’s attention because people like to watch it, the fact that they’re shutting the tournament down and trying to get everyone to social distancing right now is the right move.”
The NCAA Division III tournament may have come to an end, but there is always next season. Even though Brockport will lose a couple seniors, the repeat of success from this year is possible. Alvarez believes that the Golden Eagles can be even better next season.
“We now know what it takes to win on the national level, and we want to be in Fort Wayne cutting down the nets next year, like we were supposed to be doing this season,” Alvarez said.
COVID-19 may have taken away Brockport’s dream run this year, but the staff and players know that they can get back to the sweet 16 next season. Maybe they can go even further, and get to the Final Four, which is somewhere they haven’t gone since 1975.