by Tommy Wells – Ranger College
RANGER, Texas – The Ranger College men’s basketball season may have collected plenty of hardware and accolades at the 2016 NJCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championships last week in Hutchinson, KS, but they found even more awaiting them at home on Monday – including a special ceremony with the college Board of Regents on Monday evening.
Members of the colleges governing board acknowledged the team success this past season as members of the record-setting program presented the NJCAA fourth-place trophy.
“You have no idea how many calls I have had from all over the nation of people doing the same thing we did, watching on the big screen,” said Board of Regents’ member Ron Butler. “It is an experience that Ranger needs to go through every day because it has been uplifting. I know all of your families are happy for you. Were glad you are here.”
Butler, more than most, can identify with what the squad accomplished. The former head basketball coach and AD at Ranger College guided Rangers to their only other appearance in the national tournament in 1967.
Butler said the team’s efforts captured the hearts of almost everyone in Eastland County.
“I’m sorry I didn’t get to go, but every night we watched the game at a different site on the big screen TV,” Butler said. “I cheated a little bit because I took my earphones. The radio was two minutes on the clock ahead of the TV. All the people in the room, wherever we were, said ‘don’t be telling us what happened.’ Well, down close to the end they were all like ‘what’s going on?’”
RC Board of Regents President Jackie Stephens also thanked the team for the positive atmosphere it helped create in the community.
“We appreciate the pride you have brought back, not only to the college but the community,” he said. “You have made us well known again. Money can’t buy that, or the feeling of hope that you brought here.”
The RC men’s basketball team completed its 2015-16 season with a stellar 31-7 record. During the course of the year, the squad reeled off a school record 28 straight wins en route to claiming the program’s first Northern Texas Junior College Athletic Conference title since 2012. In Hutchinson, the Rangers won their first three games before dropping an 84-81 decision to Hutchinson in a semifinal bout played in front of more than 6,000 fans.
“I guess the only thing left to say is what are we going to do next year?” Stephens joked.
“We’ve got some unfinished business,” head coach Billy Clyde Gillispie responded.