Farmville celebrates Big South Championship win with Lancers

Published 10:54 pm Sunday, March 10, 2024

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They started lining up with about 10 minutes to go. Longwood students, Farmville residents and some folks from a bit farther out in Prince Edward County showed up to cheer on the Lancers Sunday night as they returned from the Big South Conference Tournament. 

“It’s been a tough year for the team,” said Prince Edward resident Jamie Trevor. “I think it’s important for them to see everyone out here, to know we support them.” 

Several others nodded along, showing Longwood hats or t-shirts. They talked about the effort they saw from this year’s team, the fact that even though it was a hard climb, the Lancers still made it to the top. 

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“I used this as a lesson for my kids today, “ said Thomas Saffaw. The Rice resident pointed to what it took for Longwood to claim the title on Sunday, how it wasn’t handed to them. “Three games in three days, against three of the top four teams in the conference. That’s determination. I said look at that. It’s not always easy, but if you want something hard enough, you can make it happen. It’s not just in basketball either. That goes for life.” 

And it was a hard climb for Longwood. On Feb. 7, the Lancers were 2-8 in the Big South. But then, they started to climb back. They ended the regular season beating the top team in the conference, High Point. Then they squared up in the conference tournament and beat the No. 4 seed, Winthrop, 69-56 on Friday. The next day, Longwood handed the No. 1 seed its second loss in a week, beating High Point 80-79. Finally on Sunday, the Lancers left no doubt as they ran over the No. 2 seed, UNC Asheville, 85-59, winning the conference tournament. 

‘It was a real reward for them’ 

The players and coaches were equally as happy as those who had waited for their arrival. The Lancers walked off the bus holding the Big South Tournament trophy high, posing for pictures and getting hugs from the crowd. They shot videos with classmates and held up ‘the golden ticket’ they had punched. It’s a giant-size event ticket to the first round of the NCAA Postseason Tournament, with Longwood’s team name front and center. 

“What a great reception for the guys upon our return,” Longwood Head Coach Griff Aldrich said. “The police escort, students, faculty and townspeople were all present! To see their enthusiasm and enjoyment of the team’s championship was truly rewarding. What a great community, and we are so proud to represent them.”

Making progress, Big South and beyond

Earlier this year, we talked with Coach Aldrich about building a program versus building a winning season and how the first one is much harder. This marks the third straight winning season for Longwood, all under Aldrich. To put it in perspective, the last time that happened was the Ron Carr era. That was from 1992 to 1995, when Longwood was in NCAA Division II, so it’s been a minute. 

This is also the team’s second Big South title and second NCAA Tournament bid in history. All of that has happened in a three year period as well, so you can understand why fans, alumni and current students might be a bit excited. They don’t just see a winning season here. They see a winning program, one with a majority of players who could return next year. And on this night, they wanted the players to know Farmville supported them. And now everyone is ready to find out where the program is headed next. 

It was great to see people come out just to be a part of it all, and it clearly meant a lot to the guys,” said Longwood Chief of Staff Justin Pope. “It’s hard to overstate just how physical those three games were, how much they poured into it down there. I’ve honestly never seen anything like it. To see how happy it made the fans, I know it was a real reward for them. A chance to be part of March Madness is really just one of those unique, college-town things that you never forget. I’m thrilled we’re getting to do it again.”