First hurdle for the Pioneers: South Suburban College

By Joe Thornton, reporter

As the Delta College men’s basketball team rakes in awards and honors, the Pioneers’ coaches and players are keeping their eyes on the long road ahead. While the recognition now is nice, they can’t be distracted as they look to face their first opponent in their journey to become national champions. The Pioneers will go up against South Suburban College in the NJCAA Division II Men’s Basketball National Championship on Wednesday, March 21 at noon.

The SSC Bulldogs are definitely going to be stiff competition, currently ranked the sixth seed and under Coach John Pigatti, who holds an impressive 326-63 overall record to his name. This isn’t the first time the Bulldogs have been invited to the big dance, but they’ve never tangoed with a team like the Pioneers.

Both teams have had success throughout the regular season, but when the final buzzer sounds, only one will be able to move on.

The SSC Bulldogs have averaged almost 78 PPG this season, while the Pioneers average almost 85. A whopping eight-point difference, straight out of the gate. The top offensive weapon for the Bulldogs is second-year guard Jordan Matthews, who has averaged over 20 PPG throughout the Bulldogs’ season. If the Pioneers are able to limit him, the Bulldogs won’t have many more players to turn to. Pigatti and his team have somewhat of a home advantage as a college that is already located in Illinois, but the Pioneers have had to overcome adversity all season long. What’s one more road trip to them?

While the play of Matthews’s is impressive, the Pioneers tote their own superstars in players Martel Handley, Justin Person and Cedric Moten. Viewers have witnessed these three sophomores bring their experience and collected nature in big moments all season long. A reminder to Mr. Handley, though: You don’t have to do it all alone. Your teammates are there for a reason, and sometimes you have to help them help you. If the Pioneers are able to remain calm and play the basketball they’ve played all season, there is no reason they should lose this game.

For Pioneers fans who are interested in watching the game, it can be viewed online for a price of $10 to view the single contest or $13 for access to watch the entirety of the NJCAA Division II Men’s Basketball National Championship.

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