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They were the champions

By Robert Mastroianni
On March 23, 2014

After the final buzzer sounded, Delta College Men's Basketball Head Coach Mike LaRose looked up at the scoreboard after the NJCAA National Championship Division II game at Pioneer Gym and saw Delta College – 77, St. Louis Community College (Meramec), Missouri – 71.

For the first time in any sport, Delta College had brought home a national championship trophy.

It's been 25 years since the Delta College men's basketball team won the 1989 Men's NJCAA Division II national championship. For then-head coach LaRose it was very unexpected.

“We traditionally had five full scholarships and everybody we played had 10,” LaRose said. “That was a tremendous disadvantage, obviously.”

LaRose, who coached men's basketball from 1987-92, credits the late Lynn Conway, who was the Athletic Director, as well as his own two assistant coaches with the teams championship run.

“We had a phenomenal recruiting class,” he said. “Just outstanding.”

Things didn't go well early on as the team got off to a slow start.

“We started the year 2-5,” LaRose said. “We had one returning player in Sonny Randle, who ended up being an All-American as a sophomore. Everybody else was freshmen.”

“Corey Phillips, who had been an all-state point guard at Saginaw Nouvel, transferred in at the semester. He made a tremendous difference to our team because he was an excellent player, had leadership qualities, and immediately went into the starting line up. He made our team that much better.”

LaRose said the team also benefited from how cohesive they were on and off the court.

“Most of those kids knew each other and had known each other since they were little kids,” he said “kind of like a brotherhood, you can't teach that.”123

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