The Montevallo men’s basketball team’s season ended March 17 with a loss to Mount Olive, the number four seed in the Southeast NCAA Division II Tournament.
Although the season did not end in UM’s favor, the Falcons had a successful season overall. Montevallo boasts multiple players with numerous conference awards, the Peach Belt Conference Coach of the Year in Head Coach Danny Young and a trip to the NCAA Division II Sweet 16.
Even with all of those accomplishments and awards gained this season, the Falcons faced a bumpy path and had multiple obstacles to overcome in order to reach the success they earned.
A day before the final game of his college basketball career, Ryan May said, “I think that is why we are in the position we’re in now. There’s always beauty in the struggle.”
On Nov. 10, the Falcons opened the season with an exhibition game at the University of Alabama. They lost. From Nov. 13-16, the team competed in three games in a tournament in Puerto Rico. They lost there too. The Falcons were 0-4 two weeks into the season.
Not only were they losing games, but they were also losing players due to injuries. An influential loss was Troran Brown, a two time Peach Belt Conference Player of the Year and the current Daktronics Southeast Region Player of the Year. He was out multiple games with 14 stitches in his hand, and head coach Danny Young said he wasn’t fully healed until Christmas time.
“I think when we all got back together and we got playing again, we started getting a good feel for what was going on,” said Young.
Looking at the schedule, the Falcons have lost eight games overall, six of those losses being before Dec. 13, not counting the exposition game at Alabama. Since Dec. 18, they have lost only three of the 25 games they have played.
Three months later, Montevallo was deemed the Peach Belt Conference regular season champions and started conference tournament play.
Montevallo eased through the quarter and semifinals of the Peach Belt Conference championship games, but they struggled in the actual championship game. Going into halftime, the Falcons had two starting players with three fouls and were down 21 points to Columbus State.
“I don’t know if they were tired or not focused to play or whatever it might be to start the game. I just told them they had to fight,” said Young.
And that’s exactly what his team did. They fought to come back from a large deficit and pulled out a win in overtime, earning the number two seed in the Southeast Region of the NCAA tournament.
For Montevallo, the NCAA tournament is familiar territory. Most of the players have only experienced going as far as the Sweet 16. The only exception is May, who played in the 2011-2012 Division II National Championship game when he was just a freshman.
In the first round of the tournament, the round of 32, Montevallo faced Carson-Newman, and once again found themselves struggling at the beginning of the of the game. They were down 38-31 after the first half, but Montevallo shined after halftime. They outscored Carson-Newman 43-31 in the second half to earn a win and punched their ticket to the round of 32 for the sixth year in a row.
On March 15, the Falcons played UNC-Pembroke for the third time this season and followed the same pattern of the past few Montevallo basketball games by starting off slow, neck and neck with the opponent, but increasing the lead during the second half. Montevallo, once again, won in a dominant fashion and landed a place in the Sweet 16.
Shykeem Jackson said it felt great to win against UNC-Pembroke, a team they lost to the first time they met earlier in the season, but have beaten the past two times they played.
“That alone gives us a lot of confidence going in to the next round,” Jackson said.
May, the only current Montevallo basketball player to experience the Division II National Championship game, knows what needs to be done in order to get back to college basketball’s biggest stage and is more determined than ever.
May said he tries not to let his emotions get the best of him. “I’m going out there and playing with an edge. Every game is my last from here on out and I think that fuels me more than anything.”
After the loss to Mount Olive on March 17, the Falcons ended the season with a record of 26-9 and regular season conference champions as well as Peach Belt Conference champions.