Title Town: Tigers reflect on ODAC win, look ahead to NCAA games

Published 9:47 am Tuesday, February 27, 2024

“Who we got?” That was the question that echoed around the Tiger Inn Monday afternoon. One day after celebrating their ODAC win, Hampden-Sydney players and students wanted to know which team is coming to town on Friday night for the first round of the NCAA Tournament. 

For the second straight year, the Hampden-Sydney Tigers are heading to the NCAA Division III Tournament and playing host to a first round game. Unlike last season though, the team didn’t have to wait until Monday afternoon to find out if they got in. The Tigers dominated Washington and Lee 81-56 on Sunday to win the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) title and earn an automatic bid. 

Instead, while players filmed the Selection Show and their team’s mention, the one thing everyone wanted to know was who would be their next opponent. That’ll be La Roche, which won their second straight AMCC Tournament this weekend and third in four seasons. The Redhawks will come into Kirby Field House riding a hot streak of their own. On Jan. 1, the team was 2-9 overall. The group won 15 of their last 16 to earn a spot in the tournament and a trip to Prince Edward County. That game is set to tipoff at 7 p.m. Friday at Kirby Field House. 

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“To be essentially a No. 1 seed, to play in front of our home fans, it means a lot,” said senior Adam Brazil. “We trust our coaches and come tomorrow, we’ll start going over our opponent.”  

ODAC win finishes a long-time goal 

But before focusing on what’s ahead, players were also celebrating what they had just achieved. And for some, the realization was still just setting in on Monday. For the seniors and fifth-year players on Hampden-Sydney, winning the ODAC has been a focus since day one. 

“Winning the ODAC means everything,” said Brazil. “It’s been essentially the goal of our season every year since I’ve been here. It seems like we’ve been chasing that title and it feels good to win it.” 

Brazil himself played a major role in making that happen, scoring a game-high and career-high 27 points on Sunday. That capped off an impressive tournament run that earned him the Most Outstanding Player award.

“That’s a full circle moment of sorts. I’ve seen as a junior, as a sophomore, the players who have won the award before,” Brazil said. “It means you’re one of the best players on the best team. And at the same time, I don’t get this without my team.” 

Fellow senior Davidson Hubbard also played a big role Sunday, scoring 18 points and a game-high nine rebounds. He said winning the ODAC is not just important because they’ve 

been focused on it for so long. 

“That is a huge deal and we have been talking about it for years,” Hubbard said. “It meant a lot to us. But it’s also because of how good the ODAC is. Being in the ODAC gives us such a great look at different offenses, different coaches. It helps prepare us for a national tournament.” 

Brazil agreed. 

“Top to bottom, there’s just so many different play styles, there’s a lot of really good coaches and really good players,” Brazil said. “You just get better from each game, the teams are so good they push you to be good.” 

Making history at ODAC

The Tigers also recorded some history on Sunday. This marked their 11th ODAC Tournament title, most in conference history, while they played in a record 16th championship game. There’s a third record to talk about as well, since the Tigers improved to 63-35 in the ODAC tournament with the win. That’s the most tournament wins in conference history. 

This also marked the first time since 2014 that Hampden-Sydney played in the title game. It’s been 17 years since the team last won the title. That was 2007, when the Tigers beat Roanoke 77-62. 

“It feels great to see the young men and coaching staff commit to something bigger than themselves and see a result because of that,” Tigers Coach Caleb Kimbrough said. “You know, to achieve the results you want to achieve, you can’t focus on the result and have to focus on the process. This group has done that.” 

Looking ahead to NCAA Tournament

And now the Tigers aim to do that again, looking ahead to La Roche on Friday. Kimbrough said hearing the praise from tv announcers, from fans or others about their No. 1 ranking or winning the ODAC is great, but it’s time to look ahead. 

“Let’s control the things we can control,” Kimbrough said. “When you win and people give you praise, it’s great, but you don’t want to let the outside noise control your mentality as a team.” 

Just as soon as the Selection Show ended, Kimbrough and his staff were already diving into La Roche, learning all they could about the team. 

As for the players, it’s time to take things just one day at a time. 

“We still have a long season in front of us,” Hubbard said. “We aren’t done yet.” 

For more information about Friday’s game, including how to get tickets, click here.