Tag: NJCAA Division II Region II

young man in basketball uniform

Stevens Named MVP for the Second Time

The close of the SAU Tech Rocket men’s basketball season ended with a loss to North Arkansas College but revealed another layer of talent that one player has displayed throughout his two years as a Rocket.

Starter, Sheldon Stevens, from Kansas City, Missouri, and graduate of Grandview High School, brings another layer of skill to the court every time he plays. He is one of the original players the first-year the SAU Tech Rockets took the court in 2018 and has grown as a player and person during his time at SAU Tech. Stevens stated that “Playing at SAU Tech under Coach Levinson helped me prepare for the next level in many ways. He has taught me how to be a leader, on and off the court, how to act like a professional athlete, and to never take the little things in life for granted.”

Coached by Martin Levinson, Stevens has left an impression with his coach as well. “Sheldon came to SAU Tech and believed in us as a college and as a coaching staff from day one. When he arrived on campus, we had not yet started our first season of play, and he set the tone with his work ethic. Sheldon has a special ability to score the basketball in a lot of ways. To be a two-time NJCAA Region 2 Division II MVP shows his consistency as a player and we all look forward to watching him continue his success at Oral Roberts University next year!”

Stevens’s smile and playful demeanor have endured him to the staff and faculty at the College, including SAU Tech Chancellor, Dr. Jason Morrison, and his wife, Stephanie. “Sheldon is a tremendous shooter, and he plays with such aggression on the court. Knowing the adversities he has overcome to get where he is today is genuinely humbling for us. Stephanie and I believe this young man has a bright future on and off the court, and we are so blessed to have the chance to have him as part of the Rocket Family.”

Dr. Jason Morrison, SAU Tech Chancellor, and Sheldon Stevens.

The NJCAA chose Stevens as the Region 2 Division II MVP and for the All-Region First-Team. This is the second time for Stevens to earn both designations while playing for the SAU Tech Rockets. Stevens will transfer in May to Oral Roberts University where he will play for the Golden Eagles.

young woman basketball player

SAU Tech Rocket Roundup a Succesful Season

By Joel Gray

It is done. The squeaking of rubber soles upon waxed hardwood has waned. There is no swishing of the net, no ringing of the rim. The officials’ whistles are silent. And the cross-court cries of the coaches are but mere echoes in empty arenas, where the bounding of the ball no longer reverberates. The 2018-19 inaugural season of SAU Tech Rockets basketball has concluded in Camden, Arkansas.

And what has been accomplished?

The short answer is: More than could ever have been imagined.

For most people, that is. But, for SAU Tech Chancellor, Jason Morrison, it was the fulfillment of his vision. It was he who believed that bringing athletics back to this tiny junior college would immediately have a positive impact upon the student body and the community—and not just in terms of creating school spirit with extra-curricular activities. No, he saw as a certainty what so many others held only as a hope. Chancellor Morrison saw success. Success in the Rockets’ first season of NJCAA Division-II play.

And success is exactly what was achieved. How successful were they?

Coach Andre Williams’ Lady Rockets roared out to a 5-0 start—all five victories coming against Division-I junior college competition. They would go on to finish 11-6 overall, and 2-2 in the Region 2 Conference, taking 2nd place in the final regular-season standings. NJCAA bylaws require new athletic programs to sit-out a one-year probationary period in which they are ineligible for a conference title or post-season play; therefore, SAU Tech’s women could not play a conference championship game against North Arkansas College, the only D-II opponent who had been able to defeat them in the regular-season. Incidentally, at the time that NorthArk had managed their two conference victories over the Lady Rockets, the Lady Pioneers had been ranked #6 in the nation.

Individually, Devena Smith (Fresh, Baton Rouge, LA) completed the regular-season, leading the Region 2 Conference in Points-Per-Game (16.6), as well as in Field-Goal-Percentage (59.4). Meanwhile, her teammate Brandashia Hargraves (Soph, Monticello) spent several weeks as the national leader in 3-Point-Percentage shooting, finally settling into the #2 spot at the end of the regular- season with a stat of 50%. That was still good enough, however, to allow her to finish in 1st place in that category in the Region 2 Conference.

A great year for the women’s team, as well as individual players.

For Coach Marty Levinson’s Rocket men it was much the same story. They bolted out to a 4-0 start, and—like the women—those wins came against Division-I opponents. The men would play almost twice as many games as their female counterparts, though, and suffered a brutal five-game stretch of losses to close out the 2018 portion of the schedule. After the Christmas break, however, the Rockets bounced back in a big way, winning six straight to open 2019. Their maturity on the court could be seen, as evidenced by their having overcome an early tendency to give up big leads, now actually coming from behind from big deficits. They would go on to finish 19-10 overall, with an impressive 5-1 record in the Region 2 Conference. They completed the regular-season in 1st place of the conference standings, but—again, like the women—weren’t eligible for the title or post-season play. SAU Tech had to take comfort in the knowledge that the eventual Region 2 Champion, ASU-MidSouth,

finished with two conference losses, and both of them came in their games against the Rockets.

As a team, the Rocket men also finished 4th in the nation in Steals-Per-Game (12.9). Individually, Sheldon Steven (Fresh, Chicago, IL) finished in 1st place of the Region 2

Conference in Points-Per-Game (19.9). Mike Boatright (Soph, Chicago, IL) led the conference in Steals (90), and Jaland Mitchell (Fresh, Chicago, IL)—without even playing in the final two games, due to an injury—was the conference’s leader in Blocks (46).

Like the women, the men also had an incredible year.

And this was not just a local impression; rather, note was taken among the Rockets’ opponents, as well. Particularly so was an impact made within the Region 2 Conference. When the 2018-19 All- Region Teams were announced, the SAU Tech Rockets were well-represented. For the women, Brandashia Hargraves was voted onto the All-Region First Team, while Devena Smith, Jakhiya Boston (Fresh, Little Rock), and TyQuesha Selvy (Fresh, Turrell) were each voted onto the All-Region Second Team. For the men, Sheldon Steven was a First Team pick, while Mike Boatright made the Second Team.

Success at the beginning, success at the end, and continued success after the season was over. Not someday. But now.

Rocket Cheer Squad

The Rockets Wind it Up with Wins

by Joel Gray

Camden, AR—In their final games of the 2018-19 basketball season, the SAU Tech women and men continued their nearly-inconceivable accomplishment—winning in their first seasons on the basketball court. On Thursday (2/28) the victories came over fellow Region 2 Conference member, National Park College from Hot Springs, AR, whom both Rockets squads had defeated in their earlier matchups back in January. This time the Lady Rockets prevailed over NPC, 79-63, and the Rocket men defeated the Nighthawks, 105-99.

This game was the final outing for the Tech teams in Shaddock Fieldhouse—they’ll be playing on campus next season—and Coach Andre Williams’ women took to the floor first, methodically managing the game against their Nighthawks counterparts, finishing the first quarter with a 16-11 lead. National Park kept it close, however, getting outscored in the second period by only a point, and at intermission, the Tech ladies only led 36-30. In the third, a 17-13 advantage inched the Rockets out a bit further to 53-43. And in the fourth ten-minute stanza, a six-point margin, 26-20, added up to the final tally and a Tech victory by sixteen points.

National Park’s women had four players with double-digits on the board, and three with multiple 3-pointers. Both categories were led by Hailee Crosby who totaled 27 points, hitting six shots from beyond-the-arc. The Lady Nighthawks were also concluding their inaugural season, doing so with a 4-14 overall record, 0-4 in Region 2 play.

Three Lady Rockets scored ten-or-more in this final game. Devena Smith’s team-leading 27 points were part of an outstanding personal performance that included a double-double comprised of 12 field goals and ten rebounds. Brandashia Hargraves was next with 20 points—12 of them coming on her four treys. Alex Parris added another 14.

Brandashia completes the regular-season as the Region 2 Conference’s top 3-Point Percentage shooter with a 50% output—that stat also landing her in the second-place position in the nation. Devena finishes as Region 2’s leader in Points-Per-Game (16.6), as well as in Field Goal Percentage (59.4%).
The Lady Rockets finish at 11-6 overall, and 2-2 in the R2C.

It was also Sophomore Night for SAU Tech, and after the women’s contest, there was a poignant pause to honor the athletes who were completing their careers as Rockets. The Ladies bid farewell to Alex Parris and Brandashia Hargraves, while the men said good-bye to Miles Weber, Jamie Hastings, and Mike Boatright.

Next, the men hit the hardwood, and the Nighthawks flew out to an early first-half lead, shocking the Shaddock Fieldhouse home crowd with a 12-0 run from the tip-off. Head Coach Marty Levinson called timeout and rallied his perhaps-rattled Rockets, and they fought back against the fierce determination of National Park, narrowing the margin, but remaining behind at the half, 49-46.

After the break, nearly seven more minutes would see NPC out front on the board, but at the 13:04 mark of the second half, the Rockets finally took the lead for the first time in the game, 67-66. It was the outstanding performances of Sheldon Steven and Manny Anderson—coming out of the locker room—that ignited the comeback, and the Tech men went on to outscore the Nighthawks 38-33 the rest of the way to secure the six-point come-from-behind victory.

National Park had four in double-digits, and three with multiple threes. K. J. Corder led the way with 27 points and three treys. The disappointing loss, in what was also their final game of the season, dropped the Nighthawks to 16-8 overall, but 0-6 in the Region 2 Conference.
The Rockets fixed five players in double-digits, and two with multiple three-pointers. Steven

Led, scoring 24 points—19 in the second half—and hit two from 3-point range. Anderson was next with 19—16 of those also in the second half. He also racked up 12 rebounds. Mike Boatright added 18 while sneaking five steals onto the stat-sheet. Will Bynum put up 13—6 of them coming on his two threes. And Malik Miller tallied 12 more to the score, also securing five steals for the defense.
At the end of the regular-season, Steven lands in first place in the Region 2 Conference standings in Points-Per-Game (19.9) and also in Total Points (517). Boatright is first in Steals (90), and Jaland Mitchell (who missed this final game, due to injury) finishes in first place in Blocks (46).

The Rockets complete the year at 19-10 overall, and 5-1 in the conference.
The season is over for Tech now, but only because the NJCAA requires new athletic participants to serve a one-year probationary period which makes them ineligible to win a conference title or to play in the post-season. How much farther might the Rockets have gone? That, of course, is speculative, but there would have been at least one more game per squad. The Lady Rockets finished 2nd in Region 2 and could have challenged NorthArk for the championship, and—amazingly—the men finished 1st in the regular-season standings and would have hosted a playoff game in the conference’s post-season.

Nevertheless, SAU Tech’s inauguration into junior college athletics can only be seen as a success. The future for the tiny East Camden, AR junior college has been foreshadowed. The Rockets have launched, and their impact upon NJCAA Division-II basketball is bound to be a thrill to behold.

Rockets Back on Top

By Joel Gray

West Memphis, AR—After Tuesday’s (2/19) non-conference road loss, at Poplar Bluff, MO, to Division-I Three Rivers College, 96-80—to split the series with the Raiders—Coach Marty Levinson’s 17-10 Rockets traveled again on Saturday (2/23) for their pivotal league rematch with the 20-7 Arkansas State-MidSouth Greyhounds.

The Greyhounds have been in-and-out of the NJCAA Top Twenty all season, and still received votes to re-enter it in the latest poll. They also were 4-1 in Region 2 Conference play, which had them at the top of the league’s standings. However, that one loss came in their first contest with SAU Tech, back on February 12th, in Shaddock Fieldhouse, when the Rockets won their first-ever conference game, 87-83. It was to be the only blemish on the Greyhounds’ conference record; that is, until the second-place Rockets arrived at The Dog House in West Memphis and swept the series by defeating MidSouth for a second time, winning by the score of 71-68.

The victory ensured that SAU Tech, in its first year of competition, would finish the regular season in first place in the Region 2 Conference, despite being ineligible for the league title or post- season play, due to the mandatory one-year probationary period that all new NJCAA athletic programs must serve. Quite an accomplishment for a start-up program.

The victory was never a given, however, as was demonstrated by MidSouth taking a 30-27 lead into the locker room at the half. It remained close throughout the second half with the game being tied at 59-59 with just under 4:30 to play. But a 12-9 scoring advantage for Tech in that remaining span gave them the 3-point decision.

Remarkably, it was free-throw shooting that ultimately saved the day for the Rockets. So many of the their previous ten losses can be attributed to poor percentages at the line, but on this night, they shot nearly 78%, with perfect charity-stripe performances from Malik Miller (6-6), Mike Boatright (2- 2), and Will Bynum (2-2). The Greyhounds only found the free-throw hoop 42% of the time.

With the loss, ASU-MidSouth fell to 20-8 overall, and 4-2—and second-place—in the conference, despite having four players with double-digits and two with double-doubles. They were led by Jalen Lynn, who had another outstanding game for the Greyhounds, scoring 20 points and hitting for four 3-pointers.

Four Rockets scored in double-digits. Manny Anderson put up 19 points and secured for himself a double-double by also retrieving 10 rebounds. Miller added 15 points, while also tallying 3 steals. Sheldon Steven hit for 15, as well, 9 of them coming on his three buckets from beyond-the-arc. Boatright contributed another 11.

Tech improved to 18-10 overall, and 4-2 in league play, clinching a first-place regular-season finish in the Region 2 Conference. Next, they play their final game of the season, at home, in Shaddock Fieldhouse, Thursday (2/28), against Region 2 Conference member, National Park College. The Nighthawks are 0-5 in league play, and lost their first matchup with Tech back on January 17th, 95-88, in what is also their inaugural year of NJCAA basketball. This will be the season finale for both teams. Tip-off is set for 7 pm.

men playing basketball

Arkansas Baptist Buffaloes Suffer Take Down by the Rockets

By Joel Gray

Camden, AR—SAU Tech’s women and men took to the hardwood of Shaddock Fieldhouse on Saturday (2/9) for their non-conference return games with the Division-I Arkansas Baptist College Buffaloes. Earlier in the season, both Rockets squads had picked up wins against ABC—on the road, in Little Rock. On that January day, the Lady Rockets had dominated the Lady Buffaloes doubling-up on them, 54-27, while the Rocket men had prevailed by 8 points, beating Arkansas Baptist’s men by the score of 71-63.

The rematches were near-mirror-images of the original outings as SAU Tech’s women doubled down on the their defeat of the Lady Buffaloes, blasting them again—this time 74-36. Afterward, the men’s teams squared-off for their turn—in a much more evenly-matched contest—and once again, the Rockets slipped by the Buffaloes in a close one, winning 86-80.

In the women’s game, Tech leapt to an early lead, outscoring ABC 18-5 in the first quarter, then 20-8 in the second, for a halftime lead of 38-13. The Lady Buffaloes played a little closer after intermission, but were outscored 17-13, and 19-10 in the final two stanzas respectively. The 74-36 victory improved SAU Tech’s women to 10-5 in their first season of basketball, with all but one of those wins, coming against Division-I junior colleges.

The Lady Buffaloes only had one player in double-digits—Charnita Williams, with 10—while the lady Rockets had four in that category, led by Brandashia Hargraves with 18, including two 3- pointers. Following her was Haggar Caldwell (13 points, including two 3s), and Devena Smith and Jakhiyah Boston, both of whom had 12 points each.

The more competitive men’s game saw the Rockets reach the half with a 13-point lead, 44-31, but the Buffaloes battled back, outscoring Tech in the second half by 7 points, 49-42, but that tally wasn’t enough to eclipse the Rockets’ early advantage.

Arkansas Baptist had two men to score in double-digits, Carl Smith and Devonta Harkless. both with 19. LaDarin Ceazer also hit for 3 treys.

For the Rockets, four scored ten or more. Jaland Mitchell led the way with 21, followed by Will Bynum (18), Manny Anderson (16), and Cam Akins (15).

The Tech men improved to 16-9 with the win.

Next up for the Rockets squads is the rematch with Region 2 Conference member North Arkansas, on Saturday, 2/16, in Harrison, AR. Both Tech teams fell in their first matchups with the Pioneers, and look to even the series this time around. The Lady Pioneers are currently ranked #6 in the nation, and have already clinched the conference title. Tip-off is set for 2 pm.

women basketball team and coach

Lady Rockets Bravely Face the Challenge

By Joel Gray

Camden, AR—Coach Andre Williams’ first-year 9-4 Lady Rockets faced their most important challenge of the season on Friday (2/1), and they ennobled themselves in the eyes of all onlookers by going toe-to-toe, for four full quarters, with the #6 team in the nation, the 17-4 North Arkansas College Lady Pioneers, falling just short of the upset, 64-58.

The drama of this Region 2 Conference contest essentially involved emotion—the very best element of college athletics.

The North Arkansas Lady Pioneers were already the league champions by virtue of default. SAU Tech and National Park are ineligible for the title in their first season of NJCAA play, and the remaining conference member, ASU-MidSouth, canceled their conference schedule due to injuries. Nevertheless, the powerful Pioneers have pounded opponents all season long, climbing as high as #5 in the national poll along the way, while playing nearly twice the number of games as Tech. It is just a fact that “saving face” enters one’s mind when that is arguably all that one has to lose.

The Lady Rockets, playing in their inaugural season, had begun 5-0 against Division-I competition, exceeding all expectations, and now had an opportunity to, not only knock off a top-ten team, but to sit atop the Region 2 standings, undefeated in league play, and in sole possession of first place, while the “champions” looked up at them from below.

Even though it could not alter the official outcome of the conference championship, there was every reason to play as if it did.

There were ominous overtones at the outset, however, as the matter of a uniform mix-up (Tech had taken their road blues to Shaddock Fieldhouse) and a slight delay in supplying information to the scorer’s table cost the Lady Rockets two technical fouls. The Lady Rockets were down 2-0 even before the opening tip-off. Then the 1st quarter would reach nearly the mid-way mark before they found the bucket, scoring their first points at the 5:14 mark of the opening period. Nevertheless, the much taller and—seemingly—faster Pioneer women had only managed a meager eight points themselves by this point. Both squads had struggled with early shooting, perhaps an indication that all involved knew the magnitude of the moment and had yet to settle into it. The sputtering continued to the end of the period, and Tech only trailed by three, 15-12.

The teams gathered themselves for the second quarter and shooting improved for both sides. The Lady Rockets drew even for the first time at the 8:25 mark, and jumped ahead for their first lead less than two minutes later, with 7:04 to go before halftime. It was short-lived success, however, as the Pioneers powered back to put themselves ahead at the the half, 40-34.

The third period saw SAU Tech close the gap, tying the game again at the 9-minute mark, and slipping ahead once more with 8:20 to go. Nevertheless, less than a minute later, the Lady Pioneers had knotted it up at 43-43, and for the next 7:38 they inched forward for the four-point advantage at the end of the quarter, leading now 50-46.

The Lady Rockets would never again regain the lead, but the final stanza saw the two Region 2 teams play toe-to-toe with a determination usually associated with much higher stakes than a mere moral victory or a saving of face. NorthArk only outscored the Tech women 14-12 in the final period, but it was enough to give them the six-point win.

The #6 Lady Pioneers improved to 18-4 on the season, 2-0 in the conference. They only had two players in double-digits, with Grace Coates leading the way with 16 points. Notably, they did not sink a single 3-pointer.

Tech fell to 9-5 overall, 1-1 in the league, and 2nd-place in the Region 2 standings. Three Rockets racked-up double-digits. The nation’s leading 3-point percentage shooter, Brandashia Hargraves, did not connect from outside the arc on this night, but led her squad in scoring, nevertheless, with 17 points. Jakhiya Boston was next, with 15; followed by Haggar Caldwell, with 10.

The 64-58 victory helped to justify the Lady Pioneers’ conference-champion status, and settle them alone at the top of the league standings. For SAU Tech, it was a very tough loss, but the level of play—the determined effort to overcome early adversity, come from behind, take the lead, and stand face-to-face with a consistent contender for not just a conference title, but a national championship as well—sent a clear signal to all future opponents: The Rockets must be reckoned with.

Only 15 days from the final buzzer of this first fierce contest, the rematch is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019. The Lady Rockets will host a non-conference rematch with Division-I Arkansas Baptist at Shaddock Fieldhouse, on Saturday, Feb. 9. Tech got the win the first time around, 54-27.

men playing basketball

Rockets Have Everything to Play For in Their Biggest Games Yet

by Joel Gray

On Friday night, Feb. 1, the SAU Tech Rockets will host their most important basketball games of the 2018-19 season, so far, when the North Arkansas College Pioneers come to Camden for the first-ever Region 2 Conference contest between the two schools.

The Lady Pioneers finished last season as the #8 team in the nation. This year they have a record of 17-4 and are currently the #6 team in the NJCAA Division-II Top Twenty Poll. The Lady Rockets are competing in only their first season on the court, but–amazingly–stand at 9-4, and feature the nation’s top 3-point-percentage player in Brandashia Hargraves, who is accurate from beyond the arc 58.3% of the time. Both squads are 1-0 in Region 2 play, meaning the winner will stand all alone at the top of the conference standings. NorthArk’s women have almost twice the number of victories that Tech’s ladies have accumulated, however, between these two Division-II schools, the Lady Pioneers have played a schedule laden with Junior Varsity opponents, with only 8 of their 21 games played, thus far, against Division-I teams. They are 6-2 versus those D-I opponents. Meanwhile, SAU Tech has faced–exclusively–Division-I competition, (except for their lone conference game against D-II National Park College), and the Rockets are 8-4 in those games.

There is a catch. North Arkansas College has already clinched the Region 2 Conference title with ASU-MidSouth’s Lady Greyhounds withdrawing, due to injuries, for the remainder of the season. The Rockets and the NPC Nighthawks—the only other conference members–are each serving mandatory probationary periods as first-year start-up programs and are ineligible to claim a conference championship or to play in the post-season.

So the Lady Pioneers are Region 2 “Champions-by-Default,” but naturally would like to justify themselves on the court. The Lady Rockets, on the other hand, have a chance to prove themselves to be just as good as this consistent contender for the national championship, while also foreshadowing what is surely to be a highly-competitive future.

As for the Rocket and Pioneer men’s teams, neither are currently nationally-ranked, but SAU Tech sits atop the Region 2 standings as the only team that is undefeated in conference play, while also sporting several players at the top of the Region 2 stats leaderboard. The Pioneers, however, can create—at least temporarily–a 3-way tie for first place by defeating the Rockets. That could then set the stage for them to overcome an earlier defeat by the MidSouth Greyhounds which has currently put them in the third position of the standings.

Again, SAU Tech and National Park College are ineligible, so the actual men’s champion will be either the Pioneers or the Greyhounds. Playing for the future—and bragging rights—is a powerful motivation for a start-up program like the Rockets, who got off to a 4-0 start against brutal competition, and have won 7 of their last 8 games since the Christmas break.

Tip-off for the games is set for 5:00 pm on Friday, Feb. 1, at Shaddock Fieldhouse located at 655 Fairview Road in Camden. General Admission is $5 and children aged 12 and under get in free along with SAU Tech students and staff.

These are the biggest games of the season so far. The Rockets are ready! Are you?

female basketball players

Lady Rockets take the Coahoma Tigers

by Joel Gray

Clarksdale, MS—Coach Andre Williams’ 8-4 Lady Rockets began their final five-game stretch of the 2018-19 season by facing-off for a rematch with the Division-I Lady Tigers of Coahoma Community College on Thursday night (1/24). The Tigers had been beaten once already by SAU Tech’s women— way back on opening night (11/2), in Camden—and had had a tough go ever since, coming into the rematch with a 5-10 record. It was a hard-fought contest on the home-court hardwood of The Pinnacle, but the Rockets rose above the road-trip challenge, taming the Tigers, once more, to the tune of a 68-57 victory.

The Lady Tigers displayed an early determination not to drop another game to the Division-II Tech women, eeking-out an 18-16 lead by the end of the 1st quarter. By halftime, however, SAU Tech’s desire to secure the two-game series sweep had driven them, from behind, to forge ahead of Coahoma by 4-points, 37-33. Then it was toe-to-toe throughout the 3rd quarter, with Tech only able to tally two more points than the Tigers, inching forward for a 49-43 lead. But the Lady Rockets rallied in the 4th quarter, extending their advantage by 5 additional points, resulting in the 11-point win.

Coahoma’s women fell to 5-11 on the season, of which they finished 0-2 in their contests with Tech. In this tough second loss, the Lady Tigers recorded two players in double-digits, with Ariana Thigpen leading the way with 20. Two other Tigers managed multiple 3-pointers: Khiyee Robinson had 4, while Essence Lambert totaled 2 treys.

The Lady Rockets rose to a record of 9-4 with their 3rd consecutive victory and their 8th defeat of a Division-I opponent. A total of three Tech women tallied double-digit scoring. Jakhiya Boston was good for 12, including 2 buckets from beyond the arc. Devena Smith also sank enough for 16 points on the night. But by-and-large the team was bolstered, this night, by the above-and-beyond basketball prowess of one Brandashia Hargraves.

Brandashia entered the arena as the national leader in 3-point-percentage shooting. And her offensive skills certainly contributed considerably to the Lady Rockets’ success, hitting for three more treys and tallying a total of 21 points to lead Tech’s scoring. Nevertheless—despite this ball-to-bucket display—it was Brandashia’s defense that doomed the Lady Tigers to defeat. In an inspiring and powerful performance, she played the boards for 8 defensive rebounds, broke up attempted scoring plays with 4 big blocks, and even managed to sneak in 1 steal to seal the deal.

Coach Williams and his Lady Rockets return home, to Shaddock Fieldhouse, in Camden,AR, next Friday (2/1), for a 5 pm tip-off in what will be their biggest game of the season to date—a Region 2 Conference challenge against the #6 team in the nation, the 16-4 North Arkansas College Lady Pioneers.

lady rockets

The Promise of the Future

By Joel Gray

The Rockets will be sitting out the 2018-19 post-basketball season as part of the one-year probationary period required for all new entrants into NJCAA athletics. Though SAU Tech’s women’s and men’s teams, as such new entrants, are ineligible for the Region II Conference title, they are not, however, barred from receiving votes from the NJCAA Committee to appear in the D-II National Top 20 Poll.

Tech shares this situation with fellow Region 2 Conference member National Park College, from Hot Springs, AR. The National Park College Nighthawks are also new to NJCAA basketball and therefore find themselves—like the Rockets—limited to a regular-season schedule. So without an opportunity to win a conference or national championship, what are these teams playing for?

The promise of the future.

The Lady Rockets of SAU Tech began this first season with a 5-0 record—all victories over Division-I junior college competition. The Rocket men, similarly, bolted from the gate with a 4-0 start— again, over D-I schools. Then, after the Christmas break, they have gone undefeated on the 2019 side of the schedule, racking up six consecutive victories for their longest winning streak, thus far, as of this writing. Additionally, there are multiple Rocket men at the top of the Region II stats leaderboard, with Brandashia Hargraves of the women’s team, leading the entire nation in 3-point percentage.

The situation, as it currently stands, finds the Rocket men at 12-7 overall and at the top of the Region II Conference standings at 2-0. Nevertheless, North Arkansas College or ASU-MidSouth will be the conference champion. The Lady Rockets are 8-4 overall, and 1-0 in conference play—second in the Region 2 standings. The North Arkansas College Lady Pioneers have already been declared Region II champions because, aside from SAU Tech’s and NPC’s ineligibility, the fourth team in the conference, the ASU-MidSouth Lady Greyhounds, were forced by low numbers and injuries to cancel the second half of their schedule after going 0-10 before the break. That only leaves the North Arkansas College Lady Pioneers to claim the title and advance to the post-season—not that they wouldn’t have anyway, as they currently sit at number 7 in the NJCAA Top 20 national poll after finishing at number 8 last season. The Lady Rockets get their first shot at this 7th best team in the country and Region 2 Conference “champion-by-default” on Friday, Februrary 1, 2019, at home, in Shaddock Fieldhouse, at 655 Fairview Road, Camden, AR. Tip-off is scheduled for 5:00 pm.

There are only five games left for the Lady Rockets. The Rocket men have nine more and that’s it for the season. Three more home games for the women, 5 for the men. Do you really want to miss this beginning? Next season, the Rockets will be playing on campus, in East Camden, inside the College’s Student Center. Most of these outstanding players will return and the conference championship and post-season play will all be on the table. How wonderful it would be for us all to come together and “PackTheShack,”—fill up Shaddock Fieldhouse—for these players and coaches for these final home games. The dates and times for these remaining home games are as follows:

Saturday, 01/26/2019 @ 6:00 pm – Rocket Men Vs. Mid-South Prep

Friday, 02/01/2019 @ 5:00 pm – Rockets vs. North Arkansas College

Monday, 02/04/2019 @ 7:00 pm – Rocket Men vs. On Point Prep

Saturday, 02/09/2019 @ 5:00 pm – Rockets vs. Arkansas Baptist College

Thursday, 02/28/2019 @ 5:00 pm – Rockets vs. National Park College

After this, what is it that the college, the community, the teams, and the fans have to look forward to?


text and a rocket image

The Rockets Blast the Nighthawks

By Joel Gray

Hot Springs, AR—The Spa City and the National Park College Nighthawks hosted both the Women’s and Men’s teams from SAU Tech, Thursday (1/17), for a Region 2 Conference “clash on the court,” and the Rockets returned to East Camden with remarkable wins once again. The Ladies prevailed over NPC by the score of 82-56, while the Rocket men notched another victory with a tally of 95-88 over the Nighthawks.

Coach Andre Williams’ 7-4 Lady Rockets took the floor for their first Region 2 Conference game against a 3-7 National Park squad that had already lost their first league game and was, therefore, hungry to have a win. And it didn’t seem far-fetched that they’d get it after Tech’s slow start allowed the Lady Nighthawks a 20-17 lead at the end of the first quarter. But the second period saw a near- complete shutdown of the Nighthawk offense, as the Tech defense only allowed NPC to find the bucket for 4 more points before the half, at which time the Rockets led 32-24.

By the end of the third, the Nighthawks had closed to within only three, trailing Tech 45-42. But in the final period the Lady Rockets ignited for an impressive 37 points, bolstered by the heady play of Jakhiyah Boston, Brandashia Hargraves, and Devena Smith. NPC could only answer with an additional 14 points, fixing the final tally at 82-56 in the Lady Rockets’ favor.

National Park had only two ladies in double-digits, led by Faith Bratton’s 18 points. Hailee Crosby also hit for two 3-pointers. The Lady Nighthawks drop to 3-8 on the season, and 0-2 in the conference.

SAU Tech’s women get a win in their first Region 2 Conference game and improve to 8-4 overall in their first season on the court. In the win over National Park, the Lady Rockets had four players in double-digits, led by Brandashia’s 24. Jakhiyah scored 16, and Devena was close behind with 15, followed by Alex Parris’ 10. Jakhiya and Brandashia also sank three treys apiece.

Next up for the Tech Women is a non-conference rematch, on the road, with the D-I Coahoma Community College Tigers, who have the dubious distinction of being the first victim of Rocket Victory, falling to SAU Tech in their first-ever game, back on Nov. 2, in Shaddock Fieldhouse, by the score of 71-57.

Following the Lady Rockets’ 82-56 win over NPC’s women, Coach Marty Levinson’s 11-7 Rocket men hit the hardwood of The Gym Complex in Hot Springs, (Thurs., 1/17), as the Region 2 leader, having already notched a conference victory against ASU-MidSouth in their first league outing. They also were riding a 5-game winning streak—undefeated since the Christmas break—and looked to continue to add Ws to the win column.

10-1 National Park, however, hoped to have a say in that matter. The Nighthawks had just suffered their first loss of the season, to North Arkansas, which had also made them 0-1 in Region 2 play, so—in a four-team league—some might have seen the need for an NPC victory as a necessity.

By halftime of the contest, the outcome was still highly in question, as both teams had played toe-to-toe, with the Nighthawks nursing a narrow 1-point lead at the break, 43-42. But the second half saw Region 2 Points Leader, Sheldon Steven, light the fuse and explode from long-range, burning the net off the hoop with five FGs from beyond the arc. His teammates were ignited as well, and the Rockets rallied for a 95-88 win.

National Park had four players in double-digit scoring, led by Patrick Greene’s 26. Two Nighthawks managed multiple threes: Greene with 2, and K.J. Corder with 2 also. NPC falls to 10-2 overall, and 0-2 now in conference play.

In their sixth straight win, the Rockets had four in double-digits. Steven led the way with 27,

followed by Jaland Mitchell with 20, Mike McAllister-Boatright with 14, and Will Bynum with 10. Steven had a total of six 3-pointers to his credit on the night, and Bynum added two more treys to the mix.

SAU Tech improves to 12-7 overall, and—more importantly—2-0 in the Region 2 Conference. Next stop for the Rockets will be in Clarksdale, MS for a non-conference rematch with the Coahoma Tigers, a Division-I team that has already suffered a loss to the Rocket men, back on opening night in Shaddock Fieldhouse, when Tech began their first season of basketball with a huge 69-61 victory over the Tigers.