The University of St. Thomas men’s basketball team won its first Red River Athletic Conference title. With a 67-51 victory, on March 4 in the RRAC Championship, over conference tournament host and top-seeded Southwestern Assemblies of God University, the Celts rose to the occasion and exceeded expectations.
Head Coach Todd Smith had nothing but praise to give to his group of meticulous players and dedicated staff.
"I am so happy for this group of players," he said. "They have worked extremely hard, many of them for the last four years, to get to this point. Tonight’s championship and our birth to the NAIA National Tournament is not just about this year, it is about the commitment everyone has made to each other, UST and this basketball program for the last four years."
In its fourth year as a program, these men are the first full-term players to wear the Celt uniform.
"The coaches and players who have been a part of St. Thomas basketball for any of the last few years should take great pride in the success of this year’s team," Smith said. "The seniors, Travis, Barrett, Adrian and Caleb, along with Patrick, Bryan and Henoc will always have a special place in this program’s history. They are pioneers."
Giving all they had in the RRAC Championship were seniors Caleb Williams, who had a team-high 16 points, and tournament Most Valuable Player Travis Lampley, who contributed 12 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.
UST defeated an elite SAGU team, who finished the regular season 20-2 in the RRAC and 27-3 overall. Sophomore Jonathan Walter led SAGU with 17 points.
Next up, the Celts head to Kansas City, Kan., for the National Association for Intercollegiate Athletics National Championship on March 13-19. St. Thomas clinched an automatic qualification to the national championship after beating LSU-Shreveport, 69-63, in the RRAC semifinals. National tournament brackets will be announced on March 6.
"We are going to Kansas City to represent the University as we have every day," Smith said. "We will compete with everything we have and make our fans proud. We are going to try to have a little fun too."