The season will continue for the Otero Junior College men's basketball team as it learned Monday that it qualified for the National Junior College Athletic Association Division 1 Tournament as an at-large team.
The tournament will take place March 19-24 at the Hutchinson Sports Arena in Hutchinson, Kansas.
The Rattlers made a good case for qualifying as an at-large team. They had an overall record of 29 wins and only four losses, they won the NJCAA Region IX South and they finished second in the NJCAA Region IX Tournament last week.
"Our guys made the case throughout the entire season, that we were deserving of going to Hutch," said OJC coach Brendan O'Connor. "To their credit, they were awarded and they earned it. We didn't get the results on Saturday night that we wanted, but the goal at the beginning of the season for every NJCAA team across to the country is to get to Hutch. I'm just happy for our guys, our community and our institution that we're we're going to represent Otero in Hutchinson next week."
OJC enters as the No. 19 seed and its first game is against 14th-seeded Motlow State (Tenn.) Community College on March 20 at 11 a.m. (CST).
"Anybody in the national tournament is going to be a great team," O'Connor said. "Motlow is no different and we're going to have to prepare and work to really get ready in the next week and that starts right now."
Should the Rattlers defeat Motlow State, they will play Vincennes (Ind.) College (CST) at 7 p.m. on March 21. A loss will end the season.
This will be the third time that Otero will play in the NJCAA Tournament.
The first time was in 1953 when the school was known as La Junta Junior College. The Rattlers lost their first game to Brewton-Parker College of Mount Vernon, Georgia, 65-63. They then lost to Concordia College of Fort Wayne, Indiana, 71-66.
Brewton-Parker is a Baptist school and its athletic programs now compete in the National Association for Interscholastic Athletics (NAIA). Concordia is now a four-year theological seminary, which has long since dropped its athletic program.
The second time Otero made the national was in 2012. The Rattlers defeated Wabash Valley (Ill.) College 64-62, then lost to Northwest Florida State College 77-71 and then they lost to Columbia State (Tenn.) Community College 79-67.