McCANDLESS (KDKA) — The La Roche College basketball team is headed to the Division III NCAA Tournament for the first time ever following their 55-53 win over Penn State Behrend Saturday.
The Redhawks amazing season comes amid the painful loss of their head coach Scott Lang, who collapsed at center court during a practice back in December. He was rushed to a nearby hospital, but died at the age of 41.
Lang’s players say he’s been with them ever since, for their magical run to the championship that they captured today inside the Kerr Fitness and Sports Center.
Redhawks’ fans packed the gym for the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference championship game this afternoon.
With La Roche holding a lead late in the game, Behrend had a chance to get ahead, but couldn’t get the ball to drop. A free throw then gave the Redhawks a two-point lead.
With one second left, the La Roche community held its breath as Behrend had the ball. But Laron Mann, one of two senior captains credited with holding the team together, came through in the end.
He blocked the shot and the crowd exploded in jubilant cheers.
“I think we’re all living Scott’s dream,” said Mary Ellen Dickson, Lang’s mother. “This was always his dream and early in the season whenever he recruited everybody and they were committing one at a time, he kept saying, ‘Mom, this is getting better and better and better.’ And so that’s what I’m feeling. I’m just so excited that we were able to experience his dream.”
The team brought a large photo of Coach Lang out to center court with them during the post-game celebration.
Then, after cutting down most of the net, Harry Jenkins, who took over as head coach after Lang’s passing, used a burning candle to finish bringing it down.
“Because of Scott and all the things that happened throughout the season, this group of young men just stood up and believed in what he started at the beginning of the year,” said Jenkins.
“It’s not over. We’re going on and that’s what’s fantastic, that’s always what Scott wanted to see. He knew it with this group of guys that he had the team that he was always trying to develop and they executed everything that they’ve been practicing the whole year,” said Dickson. “They were just awesome and the coaching was great. To come into a situation like that and take over somebody else’s job, they just did an awesome job.”
La Roche ends the season with a 25-2 record.