WYOMING, MICH. - It seems like if there is a sanctioned level of basketball out there, West Michigan has a team making a run to a title. Including Division 2 of the National Christian College Athletic Association. That's where Grace Bible College enters the Elite Eight this week as the nation's number one team.
"It's really nice this time of year to be able to say it and you can't always say it but we just have to keep doing what we're doing," says head coach Gary Bailey.
For GBC, doing what you're doing means winning. In the long term, this is their 11th Elite Eight appearance in 12 years. In the short term, they have rattled off 17 straight wins to head into nationals as the #1 seed.
"We had a really tough schedule early we went 7-9 we didn't play well all those games," says Bailey, "but we made a few adjustments and we've won 17 in a row, we're 24-9."
"Those losses really brought us together," says senior guard Jared Bradford, "We had to figure out who we were and we had a lot of young guys also so as we kept going on I saw a lot of growth from everybody and now we're really stepping up to the team we thought we could be."
"It just went from one game to two games to three games and now we're at 17," says junior forward Bernard Smith.
The Tigers leave for Iowa Sunday to prepare for the Elite Eight national tournament beginning Thursday. With these small school tournaments, the games aren't spread out over weeks. If you advance, you have a day to get ready for the next round.
"You have to play three days in a row so you can't be a team where I only play 7 or 8 deep," says Bailey, "You have to win the game but have enough left to win the next day and hopefully the next day."
"The starting five is not going to win this," says Bradford, "so we go 13 deep and we're going to play 13 deep and that's kind of what separates us from other teams."
In an area chock full of college basketball schools of every level, Grace may be the smallest but they also may just be the most successful and are set up nicely to hang another banner.
"We come form a powerhouse school we have a lot of tradition here," says Smith, "We just want to go there and play our best basketball."
The Tigers face Moody Bible first in the Elite Eight at Thursday at 8 PM. If they keep winning, the title game will be next Saturday at 6.
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