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Dragons in NJCAA nationals

Published or Revised March 23, 2005

It has been 46 years since their last appearance, but the Paris Junior College Dragons are returning to the NJCAA national basketball tournament in Hutchison, Kan.

The Dragons (24-9) defeated the nation’s No. 2 team, San Jacinto College, in the finals of the NJCAA Region XIV tournament to earn their first trip to the national finals since 1959.

Paris Junior College will face NJCAA Region VI champion Pratt Community College KS (19-15) in the opening round at 1:45 p.m. Wednesday, March 23.

A victory over Pratt would send them into the championship bracket and an 8:30 p.m. game on Thursday, March 24. Should they lose, they would move into the consolation bracket and play at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday. Semifinal games will be played on Friday and finals in both brackets on Saturday.

“We finally made it,” Dragon Coach Bill Foy said following the game played in Lufkin. “We’ve knocked on the door so many times - and now we have finally ended the drought.”

It has been a frustrating several years for Foy and his Dragon teams. They have played their way into the championship game of the Region XIV (South and East Texas) tournament five of the last seven years. Until last week, they always came up the bridesmaid.

During those seven years, Foy’s teams have compiled a 155-71 record and the last 10 sophomores from those teams have gone on to play Division I basketball.

This year’s team finished third in the conference during the regular season behind San Jacinto and Lon Morris College, respectively, but found a way to rise to the top in tournament play.

“I knew we would make it - I just didn’t know when,” Foy said. “This team had the confidence, and was on a mission. They got the job done against some very strong competition.”

Players like Alexander Starr (6-4) of Dallas Kimball, Bobby Joshua (6-6) of Everman and Charles Stoker Jr. (6-4) of Desoto brought talent and post season tournament experience to the Dragons.

Joshua and Stoker played on their high school state championship teams, while Starr’s Kimball Knights were runner-ups for the state title.

Joining them on the Dragon team are leading scorer Lamar Searight of Pontiac Michigan, Brian Burrell of Nacogdoches (the only freshman on the team), Roderick Earls of Little Rock, Arkansas; Ricky Quarles of Shreveport, Donnell Franklyn of Gary, Indiana; Michael Battle of Waldorf, Maryland and Tyler Best of Lafayette, Indiana.

The Dragons, who play strong defensive basketball, have held their opponents to a conference leading 68.3 points per game this season, while averaging 74.9 points.

Searight averaged 11 points per game, but following close behind were Starr with nine points, and Joshua, Earls, Burrell, Battle and Franklyn with eight or better. Starr leads the team in rebounds with 6.5 per game, and has blocked 32 shots this season. Joshua has pulled down 170 rebounds to rank second behind Starr.

“This team has been a pleasure to coach,” Foy said. “They have won 50 games (26-7 last year) in their two years and have represented PJC well, both on and off the basketball court. I am proud of them and predict they will continue to be successful at a four-year institution.”

The Dragon team roster includes:

Alexander Starr, 6-4, Soph., Dallas; Lamar Searight, 6-1, Soph, Pontiac, MI; Donnell Franklyn, 6-6, Soph., Gary, IN; Rickey Quarles, 6-2, Soph, Shreveport; Charles Stoker Jr., 6-4, Soph, Desoto; Michael Battle, 6-4, Soph, Waldorf, MD; Brian Burrell, 6-3, FR, Nacogdoches; Tyler Best, 6-9, Soph, Lafayette, IN; Roderick Earls, 6-2, Soph, Little Rock, AR and Bobby Joshua, 6-6, Soph, Everman.

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