Augustana men's basketball pushes onward to Final Four

The men's basketball team hold up their sectional championship trophy after their win against Marietta. Photo by Ian Magnuson.
The men’s basketball team’s seniors hold up their sectional championship trophy after their win against Marietta. Photo by Ian Magnuson.

Junior guard Hunter Hill, junior forward Tayvian Johnson, and junior guard Griffin Pils all clutched their own piece of the hoop’s net throughout the duration of Saturday’s press conference, a silent reminder of their 100-51 win over the Marietta Pioneers and upcoming advance to the Final Four.
“I am still holding on to the string, and I really don’t have very good words to describe it,” said Johnson. “All the things we did to get ready for this season is all right here in this little piece of string.”
With Carver Center’s cheering crowd spread on the floor, each player and all members of the Viking’s coaching staff were able to cut a piece of the winning basket after the win. Head coach Grey Giovanine cut the last string.
The cutting of the basket closed out the team’s final home appearance of the year and served as one of the team’s most forceful showings, Giovanine said.
“That was about as dominating of a performance as I’ve ever seen in college basketball, with the stakes as high as they were,” said Giovanine. “I think it’s tremendous credit to our coaching staff for turning around a game plan so quickly, and obviously for our players to embrace a game plan to the letter speaks volumes about this team, not just their will to win, but their will to do what it takes to win.”
The will to win was shown from every member of the team during their game against the Pioneers, as each dressed Viking was able to accumulate minutes in the sectional championship.
Giovanine credits his bench when creating struggles for Marietta and said that he issued a challenge to his players on the sideline.
“We did feel like our second five was better than theirs, and we talked a lot about how our bench is going to be the difference in this game,” said Giovanine. “And so we really challenged our guys coming in to make a difference.”
The three players that made the most baskets off the bench were junior guard Jake Norcia with nine points, senior guard Danielius Jurgutis with eight points, and junior forward Brandon Motzel with eight points and six rebounds.
As a unit, the Vikings understand that each and every teammate is important, said Hill.
“Coach G always emphasizes that it doesn’t matter if you are the fourteenth guy on the roster or the first guy on the roster, everyone needs to step up,” said Hill.
As a conclusion of each Viking stepping up to his role, the team now advances to the Final Four in Salem, Va. In years past, the Augustana men’s basketball team has made four Final Four appearances, which resulted in third-place finishes in 1975 and 1976 and second place finishes in 1981 and 1993.
The Vikings are set to take on Babson College on March 20 at 5:30 p.m. The other match is between Virginia Wesleyan and University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point at 8 p.m. on March 20. The winners will play in the NCAA championship game the following day.
Although making it to the championship is the final goal, the Vikings look to take the process one step at a time, with Giovanine recognizing that this journey started when Hill, Johnson, and Pils were first-years.
“That’s where I think the beginning was for what you saw tonight,” said Giovanine. “Alright, Final Four, baby.”