KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Carroll College men’s basketball team slowly walked back to its locker room following Tuesday’s NAIA Championship game loss to Georgetown.
When the seniors came out of the locker room one last time, it was difficult for them to take in what had happened.
But after Matt Wyman talked for a minute or so, the focus shifted from sadness into a sense of accomplishment.
Sure, he had red eyes that hinted at tears shared with his teammates, but in almost every Wyman interview, he cracks a joke.
“I think every year, Kansas City is about the time you should have gotten in the weight room,” Wyman said, cracking a smile. “Some of these guys are huge, 230 or 240, and I’m looking a buck-80.”
Before the game, Wyman soaked in what was happening. Carroll didn’t have much time for anything aside from preparing for five basketball games in six days.
They couldn’t pass up some Kansas City barbecue, but they mostly sat in film sessions, warming up and getting their mind focused.
“A lot of people don’t get to play in a championship game,” Wyman said.
Over the last five years, nine different teams played in the NAIA National Championship game. The only team who had two appearances was Georgetown.
“I was talking to Dane Warp and we didn’t even get to win a state championship in high school,” Wyman said. “You look at the bracket and you see you’re under the National Championship line that says it will be played on ESPN3 and I don’t really think there are any words to describe it. We won four games in five days and played a final that 30 other teams missed out on. There are a lot of great teams and I don’t think we have anything to hang our heads about.”
Not only did Wyman look back on the tournament, but also the road he traveled with his fellow classmates.
Wyman came to Carroll in a class that included Match Burnham and Ife Kalejaiye, who, along with Alejandro Santos Piqueras, brought success back to the Saints basketball program.
The quartet cut down the nets for Frontier Conference championships and made the NAIA tournament each of their four seasons.
“We love our coaches, we love our teammates and we love everyone who supported us,” Wyman said. “We are all bonded together. This run means so much more to us.”
Carroll basketball will move on and new players will come and go, but the players who are leaving know they made their mark. The Saints will return home, open up the giant trophy case in the PE Center and be proud to show off their second-place trophy.
“It’s not all about basketball,” Wyman said. “It’s about the relationships you make with people. There are teams that have way better players than we have, but they didn’t have the chemistry. You need to appreciate what you have until it’s gone.”