By Owen Kennedy, Chattanooga, Tennessee (mocsnews.com)-
After a long season of highs and lows the Chattanooga Mocs men’s basketball season has come to a very disappointing close.
After much anticipation for their upcoming 2021-2022 season the Mocs jumped off to a great 11-3 record to open the season with wins over in state opponents and big time mid major programs.
The Mocs started conference play against their inner state rival the ETSU Buccaneers here in Chattanooga with a nationally televised contest in which the Mocs started conference play strong with a resounding 82-52 win over their rivals.
The Mocs cruised for the rest of the regular season encountering a couple of losses, but still staying at the top of the Southern Conference standings.
The Mocs finished the regular season, with the best record in their conference going 24-8 overall and 11-4 in conference play.
The Mocs star player Malachi Smith was awarded conference player of the year, and head coach Lamont Paris was awarded coach of the year for leading the Mocs to the best conference record.
It was not till the Southern Conference tournament started that the Mocs were faced with adversity.
With tough wins in the Southern Conference tournament to make it to the finals the Mocs matched up with one of their toughest competitors the Furman Paladins in the final.
The game was tight all the way through, no team wanted to jump out to a big lead. After some last second heroics from the Paladins the game went to overtime. After a long gut-wrenching overtime period the Mocs were trailing by two with 4.3 second left a little march magic shined down upon the Mocs. Star player David Jean-Baptiste dribbled to half court and heaved a long shot that he made at the buzzer to win the game and the tournament for the Mocs, which punched their ticket to the NCAA tournament.
The shot made by Baptiste made national headlines and took the nation and especially the UTC campus by storm.
Joey Nueman a fan in attendance for the shot had this to say about the experience
“That was one of the coolest moments of my life, this team is special and to have us win like this was amazing.”
Baptiste said this when asked about the shot, “I wasn’t sure at all it was going in I knew I had four seconds and just got to my spot.”
When the Mocs arrived back on campus they were met with open arms from students and staff and there was a buzz about this team.
Bryan Johnson, a student who came to welcome the Mocs back, had this to say, “This team is special I really think we can do something in the tournament, I have been here four years and have never seen a buzz like this.”
After this game the Mocs had punched their ticket to the NCAA tournament and were set to play the Fighting Illini of Illinois in the tournament.
The Mocs quickly made a journey up to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to take on the Illini. The game went as well as it could for the Mocs jumping out to a big lead for most of the game but losing in the last seconds of regulation with a final score of 53-54.
“It’s a shot I take all the time and I missed it and it’s really frustrating,” that is what Mocs star Malachi Smith had to say after the heart-breaking loss.
A great record breaking season ended in heartbreak, but a lot of hope for the future of the Chattanooga Mocs.