Mitchell enjoys historic moment
New London — Forty-eight hours after earning the program's first NCAA tournament bid, Mitchell College was still riding an emotional wave on Monday.
Who can blame the Mariners for reaching 10 on the giddy scale?
They've made school history and accomplished their ultimate goal.
Monday afternoon, they gathered to watch the NCAA Division III Men's Basketball Championship selection show. They'll visit Williams College (23-4) for a first-round game at 8 p.m. on Friday in Williamstown, Mass.
Their reaction was priceless.
"It was great," coach Todd Peretz said. "All the guys had their phones out and were taking photos of the screen. They were snapchatting, on instagram, and texting everybody. All the guys jumped up and yelled.
"It was a very exciting time for all of us. ... They started to see the seriousness of it when the show was on today."
Senior Alex Del Rio, who won just one game during his freshman season, doesn't want the joy ride to end.
"It was almost like a dream come true in our eyes, especially after setting that goal from the beginning of the year," Del Rio said. "We have nothing to lose and we're going to have fun.
"We're going to keep practicing and keep getting better."
Peretz's first challenge dealt with bringing his players back down from their emotional high. They haven't stopped smiling since beating Elms College on Saturday to win their first New England Collegiate Conference championship and earn an automatic bid.
Senior Joshua Ford reminded his teammates to settle down during practice Monday. "We have to focus now." he said. "We have a new task."
By the time practice ended, the Mariners (19-7) were in a good place.
"I think we're back down to earth," Peretz said.
While the Mariners are newcomers to the Division III postseason scene, the ninth-ranked Ephs have a rich tournament history.
Williams is making its 14th trip, including fourth in the last five years, to the NCAA tournament. The Ephs lost to defending national champion Amherst, 93-82, on Saturday in the New England Small College Athletic Conference final and received an at-large bid.
Four teams will play at Williams on Friday, with Gordon (17-10) facing Babson (20-6) in the first game of the doubleheader at 6.
The Ephs dropped just one league game while playing in one of the toughest conferences in Division III. But they did lose to Southern Vermont, which belongs to the same conference as Mitchell.
"It's a great, great program and it's a great opportunity for us," Peretz said.
The Mariners had another reason to celebrate on Monday. Peretz was named the NECC Coach of the Year for the first time while Ford picked up his second straight Player of the Pear honor and made the first team for the third time. Junior Parris Hill was a second-team selection.
Ford led the conference in scoring (22.7 points) and rebounding (12.4) despite constantly drawing double teams.
"I definitely worked hard in the offseason and during the season," Ford said. "My teammates and coaching staff believed in me."
Peretz was rewarded for his hard work, too. He transformed the program, going from winning just five games overall two seasons ago to school records for wins in Division III and in the NECC (12).
"I'm very excited for coach," Del Rio said. "He earned that. ... He wants more. He's hungry for more."
While Peretz appreciated the honor, he credited his players for the team's success.
"I wasn't an idiot 10 years ago," Peretz said. "I just didn't have the same type of players. I like to think I was smart when I started this. Maybe I'm a little wiser.
"It's not secret, I have good players."
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