SHERIDAN — Following Saturday’s loss in the Region IX championship game, Josh Bagley hoped the National Junior College Athletic Association selection committee wouldn’t snub Sheridan College a second year in a row. Teammate Cam Reece felt comfortable, knowing the Generals had a strong at-large resume, and head coach Matt Hammer played out both scenarios in his head numerous times prior to Monday’s national tournament selection show.
“It has been fun and exciting just going back and forth — did we do enough, did we not do enough?” Hammer said. “… It’s great to see the committee understand how tough our league is. And just a chance for these guys to stay together as a team for one more week or two more weeks, it just means the world to me, and it means the world to this program.”
Sheridan College earned one of the eight at-large bids for the national tournament. The Generals will head to Hutchinson, Kansas, and battle Kaskaskia College from Centralia, Illinois, in the opening round 6:30 p.m. Monday.
The selection marks Sheridan’s first since 2006. After failing to claim the Region IX tournament’s automatic bid — falling to Casper College in the championship game Saturday — the Generals had to wait and see if their resume would hold up.
And it did, just barely.
Sheridan was awarded the eighth and final at-large bid and is seeded 13th overall. The bracket consists of 24 teams and the top eight seeds — a collection of at-large and automatic qualifiers — receive an opening-round bye.
The Generals finished the season ranked No. 11, and their 28 regular-season wins were tied for most nationwide. Sheridan gained inclusion into the tournament over teams such as No. 5 John A. Logan from Carterville, Illinois, and No. 9 Chipola College from Marianna, Florida, likely due its quality wins and absence of any profile-damning losses.
The Generals owned three wins over teams that made the field of 24. They beat No. 22-seeded Williston State College (automatic qualifier) twice and downed No. 9-seeded Casper in January.
“We had one hell of a season,” Reece said. “None of our losses we had this season were to bad teams, so I felt we had a pretty good chance of getting in.”
What didn’t help Sheridan’s tournament chances — and perhaps would have slightly helped its seeding — was the fact that the top-five teams in the final top-25 poll all lost in their respective region tournaments. Throw in the No. 7, No. 9 and No. 12 teams not winning their region tournament, either, and it appeared as though the Generals may get shut out.
“I didn’t have a really good feeling going into [selection Monday],” Hammer said. “We didn’t have much luck with some of the other teams ranked ahead of us faring too well in their district tournaments, and you’re just never really sure exactly what the committee looks at.”
Last season, Sheridan finished the year at 28-5 and ranked No. 16. The Generals lost in the region tournament semifinals and had “bad losses” to Western Wyoming Community College and Casper and “quality wins” over Gillette College and Otero Junior College.
However, come selection Monday, the Generals didn’t hear their name called. Bagley, who sat in that quiet and disappointed room a year ago, is simply happy he didn’t have to endure any deja vu.
“They didn’t snub us two years in a row,” Bagley said. “It’s going to be fun experience, going down there and proving something.”
If chalk holds, Sheridan would advance to play No. 4-seeded Coffeyville Community College from Coffeyville, Kansas, Wednesday in the round of 16.