SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Bloomfield made history by reaching the NCAA Division II Elite Eight, and now that the Deacons are here, they are determined to keep their dream of winning a national championship alive .
Despite being a seventh seed, the Deacons (24-8) made a remarkable run through the regional, capturing the title with a 75-71 victory against powerhouse Bentley, and are the first team in Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference to make the Elite Eight.
Bloomfield is also one of seven teams in the Elite Eight for the first time and will play BYU-Hawaii (20-8) in an 8:30 p.m. national quarterfinal on Wednesday night at the MassMutual Center.
“It’s a great feeling to be here,” senior guard Gage Daye said. “Coach told us we had the potential to get here, but we had to work hard to make it happen.”
Daye has been critical to the success of the Deacons. He is pouring in 23.8 points per outing and grabbing 6.5 rebounds per game. Daye also has 172 assists and 55 steals.
The thing is, Daye doesn’t take all of the credit for the run Bloomfield has made in the tournament.
“I bring a lot to the team,” Daye said. “But my teammates are great as well and we have really come together at the right time. We are shooting well and playing good defense. We feel like we are playing our best basketball.”
Bloomfield head coach Gerald Holmes is in his ninth season at the school and he knew this team had an opportunity to do something special.
He told his players as much when the season began and believes his team is trained to be successful.
“Our athleticism and conditioning has been important,” Holmes said. “We do a good job of getting out in transition and we feel like we are in better shape than any team we play.”
|Minnesota State||West Liberty|
Senior guard Ryan Rodrigues is averaging 14.6 points per game while junior forward Matt Wafula is pumping in 12 per contest.
The Deacons are scoring 86.9 points per outing and allowing 79.1. They are shooting 45.2 percent from the field and come into the Elite Eight riding a nine-game win streak.
“We are playing with a lot of confidence,” Daye said. “We feel like if we stick to our formula and focus on defending and rebounding at a high level, we will give ourselves a chance to win.”
Holmes said defense will be the key to success against the Seasiders.
“We have to be able to play great defense,” Holmes said. “We are going to be playing a good shooting team and we have to be able to keep their guys from getting open. Defense is going to be key for us.”
No matter what happens, Daye is glad he has had an opportunity to play on the game’s biggest stage in his final season.
“I couldn’t imagine a better way to go out,” Daye said. “To be able to get this far, is amazing. It’s cool to be able to leave a legacy here at Bloomfield.”