SOUTH HOLLAND, Ill. — Fresh off the heels of the South Suburban College Men’s Basketball team’s completion of a historic season, the champs are back in town.
The Bulldogs brought home the National Junior Athletic Association Division II Tournament crown.
Head Coach John Pigatti told WGN News he was honored to help guide such a gifted group.
“They were just special offensively and defensively,” Pigatti said.
Once players bought into his system of a fast-paced offense and stifling defense and held each other accountable, Pigatti said he knew they were going to be a matchup nightmare.
But the team was tested early, winning only by a point to advance into the playoffs.
“I think our guys thought they were holier than thou and didn’t come out with the same intensity in the second half but we survived,” Pigatti said. “I think they realized that if they cleaned up [some of the mistakes,] they could have a special run down in Danville for the national tournament and that’s what they did.”
Eventually, the Bulldogs went undefeated, going 33-0 en route to a national title.
Freshman guard Damarco Minor was a standoff at Thorton High School. Now, Minor can add NJCAA Tournament MVP to the growing list of accomplishments.
“It feels good. It feels real good,” Minor said. “I tried to go into the game as if it was just the same game as the 32 we had before, not treat it too big or treat any less of what it was. Just listen to Coach’s X’s and O’s, execute the offensive gameplan and the defensive gameplan and we were going to come out victorious.”
Minor’s running mate throughout the season was sophomore guard Camron Danatlan. The West Aurora graduate, who, along with Minor, also made the All-Tournament team, first played college football in Wyoming before returning to his first love: basketball.
“We knew we had to come out there and just play our hardest,” Danatlan said.
Terry Wells, South Suburban board chair, told WGN News it’s great to be the champs. Wells said the young men on the court would undoubtedly be leaders of the community one day off it. In the meantime, Wells said he hopes his players savor the moment.
“You’ve done something that has never been done before,” Wells said. “Outside of getting maybe graduating and getting married, this is probably going to be the biggest thing that’s ever happened in their lives.”
The top-seeded Bulldogs defeated Davidson-Davie Community College 79-63 in Danville last Saturday to secure their first national championship in the school’s history.
They did it all in front of fans and family.
“That was an amazing moment to see my family there after we won,” Minor said.
Now and forever national champs, WGN News asked the crew what’s next.
“Just enjoy the moment day by day,” Minor says with a smile, “and being grateful that we were in the position to be national champs.”