SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Cameron Hodges of Minnesota State-Mankato tried to fight back the tears Thursday night after his team had lost in an NCAA Division II national semifinal to Bellarmine.
His dream of winning a championship was over, and yet, Hodges didn’t feel as if he and his teammates were going home empty-handed.

“We are part of the first team to make it to the Elite Eight and that is something no one can ever take away from us,” Hodges said. “We have raised the bar high and I hope the teams that follow us will strive to achieve what we have.”

Only one team gets the opportunity to leave Springfield with a championship, but all eight teams here have a chance to raise the profile of their programs. Seven of the eight teams at the Elite Eight this past week were here for the first time.

Mankato head coach Matt Margenthaler said the tournament provides his team with attention it couldn’t buy with money. All of the games are streamed live on the internet. The final four is shown on the CBS College Sports Network and the championship game is broadcast live on CBS.

“You can’t buy this kind of exposure,” Margenthaler said. “These guys have worked hard to get to this point and can walk out of here with their heads held high because they were part of one of the best teams in school history.”

BYU-Hawaii played in the national championship game against Bellarmine on Saturday, and while the Seasiders fell short of their goal of winning it all, losing 71-68, the players know they have taken the program to another level by catapulting it into the Elite Eight for the first time in school history.

“We hope this success does a lot for the program,” senior guard Marques Whippy said. “We have gone further than any other team here and we hope the next team can win the title. This was a good experience for us and it’s great for the program.”

Each team had its share of veteran players who helped make this run to the Elite Eight possible. Margenthaler said his next team will have a lot to live up to.

“Our seniors will be sorely missed,” Margenthaler said. “They have set the bar high and our next team that gets here is going to have to win it all.”

3-Point Show: BYU-Hawaii made a run to the title game behind a barrage of 3-point shots: The Seasiders hit 35 in all, including 12 in the championship game against Bellarmine. The Seasiders hit at least 11 treys in all three games.

All-Tournament Team: Jeremy Kendle and Justin Benedetti of Bellarmine both made the all-tournament team at the Elite Eight. Corey Pelle of West Liberty State and Jefferson Mason of Minnesota-Mankato were also on the team. Jet Chang of BYU-Hawaii earned Most Outsanding Player honors.

Championship Region: Bellarmine became the second team from the Midwest Region in three years to win a national title. The region had not won a title since 2001 when Kentucky Wesleyan had won its eighth championship until Findlay broke through in 2009 and capped a 36-0 season with the title.

Bellarmine finished 33-2 this season and won its first title in program history. This was the third consecutive year that either a team from the Midwest or West has been crowned the champion. Cal Poly Pomona was the 2010 winner.

Jeremy Kendle and Justin Benedetti of Bellarmine both made the all-tournament team at the Elite Eight. Corey Pelle of West Liberty and Jefferson Mason of Minnesota-Mankato were also on the team. Jet Chang of BYU-Hawaii earned Most Outstanding Player honors. Bellarmine became the second team from the Midwest Region in three years to win a national title. The region had not won a title since 2001 when Kentucky Wesleyan had won its eighth championship until Findlay broke through in 2009 and capped a 36-0 season with the title.