Saints go marching into national tournament

The Saints gather on the court during a timeout in a home game on Jan. 23 against Herkimer Community College. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

Many of us have, at some point or other, moved to a new town with a job to do: maybe as a worker, a student or a member of the military. In such a situation, one puts one’s head down and focuses on the task at hand — without, perhaps engaging with too many people in that new place.

But if one does really well at that task, imagine how great it would be to have people you don’t even know stand up and notice, and even better for them to cheer you on and say they’re proud that you represent their hometown.

That’s happening right now with the North Country Community College women’s basketball team. After losing in the playoffs last year, they promised themselves that this year they were going after a national championship in Division III of the National Junior College Athletic Association. With that goal firmly in mind, the returnees and a new crop of freshmen bore down on training, bonding and hitting the court hungry to win.

It’s working. They have a 27-2 record and a 21-game win streak going into the national tournament that starts tomorrow in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. They’re one of just eight teams left in the running for NJCAA DIII.

Looking at the other seven teams’ statistics shows that North Country is solid on offense but particularly strong on defense. And for an article in Monday’s Enterprise, Saints players and coaches emphasized the team’s familial trust in each other, their varied strengths, their flexibility in playing styles and their ability to adapt on the fly.

It should be exciting to watch them in action, and you won’t have to drive down to Pennsylvania to do so. The college is hosting a free watch party — with free pizza and soda, hello! — Thursday night starting at the opening game’s 7 p.m. tip-off.

You can also watch it live online at http://njcaatv.com, for a fee of $4.99 a game or $14.99 for all the games.

If the Saints win that match over Passaic County Community College of New Jersey, they’ll move on to the semifinals Friday night. If they win that, too, they’ll play in the final game Saturday night. If they lose, they’ll still play in consolation games Friday and Saturday.

These Saints players hail from all over the United States: Florida, Virginia, Texas, Alaska, Pennsylvania and here in northern New York. As students, they are working toward a variety of careers, including health sciences, business, teaching and law enforcement.

We’re glad they chose to go to college in our hometown. We hope they have felt welcome here. We hope they’ve reached out a little bit and that people have reached out to them. We hope they carry some good memories and impressions of this place wherever they go next.

But they’ll always have this magnificent basketball season to treasure — and so will the community. Let’s show them how proud we are of their teamwork, skills and hard work.

March on, Saints!

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