Aggie Athletics Top-10 2017 Stories, Nos. 10 and 9
There is no question the world got to see Aggie Pride up close and personal in 2017. The Aggies were showcased on national television several times, posted world-class times in track and field and had athletes turn professional in prominent ways. Over the next few days, North Carolina A&T Athletics will countdown the top-10 moments and stories in athletics. Within the list there is speed, perfection and putts. We will start with No. 10 and 9.
No. 10: Early Success
A team is doing something special whenever they can have a bigger moment than a program who is in their inaugural program. But women’s golf got the edge over men’s golf because of the coach’s boldness.
Head men’s and women’s golf coach Richard Watkins told N.C. A&T athletics director Earl Hilton the women’s golf program could win two tournaments by year two. He told him that just as the Aggies were starting the women’s program last season. Watkins worked hard enough to see his prediction come to fruition. The youthful program won its first-ever tournament during the first tournament of the 2017-18 season, the Hampton University Golf Tournament in September. Senior Sofia Alvarez will now hold the distinction of being the first women’s golfer in school history to win a tournament after shooting 8-over par including a 1-over par 72 on Tuesday. Newcomer and junior college transfer Bo Young Park finished second at 9-over and sophomore Erica Jackson showed off the vast improvement in her game by finishing fourth at 19-over. In the first round, Jackson tied a career low by shooting a 79.
The ladies were not finished, however. A month later they captured the Savannah State Fall Tiger Invitational. The Aggies shot their lowest round of the young program’s existence when they shot a 307 on the first day to the take the lead into the clubhouse. They came back the next day and went five strokes lower to shoot a 302 to win the tournament by 38 strokes over Savannah State.
Park led the tournament after Day 1, but followed her 1-over 73 on Monday with a 2-over performance on Day 2 to slip into third place by shooting plus-3 for the week. Despite falling two strokes short of winning the tournament, Park was superb over the 36-hole event. She holed four birdies for the tournament and was second to freshman teammate Madison Harriman in pars for the tournament with 26. Park took advantage of the par 5’s by shooting 2-under on those holes.
Honorable Mention: The men’s golf program followed their lady counterparts by embarking on their inaugural season in 2017-18. Their first official tee time took place on Sept. 25. Many of the things needed for the program took place a year earlier when the women had their first-ever season.
No. 9: Throw The Records Out
The cliché’ says ‘When these two teams get together you can throw the records out of the window.” But these records? The North Carolina A&T men’s basketball team was 2-27 overall and 1-15 going into their March 2 game against arch-rival North Carolina Central at Corbett Sports Center. NCCU was not only the heated rival, they were the best team in the conference at 22-7 overall and 13-2 in the MEAC.
The Aggies win over the Eagles was so impressive, it earned a segment on Scott Van Pelt’s Sports Center that night. Sam Hunt’s 20 points and Eliel Gonzalez’s 19 points led the Aggies along with their defensive effort of holding NCCU to 6-for-30 shooting in the second half. The Eagles (22-8, 13-3 MEAC) did lead most of the night, their lead never got above six.
With the Eagles leading 59-53 with 5:10 remaining, the Aggies began the process of taking over the game. Davaris McGowens hit back-to-back layups to cut the Eagles lead to two. Gonzalez then pulled up for a 15-footer to tie the game at 59 with 3:42 to play. After a Patrick Cole turnover gave the Aggies the ball back, Hunt leaned into a 3-pointer that caused Cole to foul him. Hunt hit all three free throws to give the Aggies a 62-59 lead.
Hunt and Gonzalez then put the game away. Hunt hit a tough layup with Eagles draped all over him to give the Aggies a five-point advantage. Del’vin Dickerson made Aggies fans nervous as he hit a 3-pointer 1:35 remaining to cut the Aggies lead to two. But Gonzalez went down the middle of the lane to score to increase the lead to 66-62 with 1:07 to play. He then went baseline and connected on a reverse layup to put the Aggies ahead 68-63 with 17 seconds to play.
When the game was over, Aggie students rushed the floor in excitement after what was a difficult season for North Carolina A&T men’s basketball.
Honorable Mention: After a 3-29 season, expectations are not high. The men’s basketball team was picked to finish last in the MEAC in 2017-18 and no one was remotely shocked. N.C. A&T used that to their advantage and left many observers shocked by putting together a record-breaking November in which they won five of their six games. Not only did the Aggies break the school record for wins in November, a new force in Aggies basketball named Femi Olujobi was introduced. Over the Aggies first five games of the season, Olujobi led the nation in scoring, was named MEAC Player of the Week three times and was also named Lou Henson National Player of the Week.