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Inside North Lake Basketball’s Championship Run 

Two numbers tell the story when it comes to just how impressive Dallas College North Lake men’s basketball program was this season: 23 and five. 

The Blazers won 23 straight games to close the season, including a 74-61 victory over New York-based Herkimer College to win the national championship. That marked the fifth national championship in program history as the Blazers became the first NJCAA school at any of the three levels with five titles. 

North Lake coach Josh Mills and his team were recognized at the Dallas College Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday, April 2. They provided an inside look in what became one of the most magical basketball seasons in recent memory. 

We knew we were championship good when … 

Sophomore guard Bryson Smith: “Probably the first game of the season (an 89-81 victory over Three Rivers Community College in Poplar Bluff, Missouri). Everybody probably had doubts coming in that we weren’t that good; we didn’t know what we were capable of. But, getting that first win and just dominating the whole game, that’s when I knew we had something special here.”

Sophomore forward Ring Deng: “I would say it was the game against Brookdale (in the national semifinals). We were down 16 at one point, almost 20 points, and then we all locked in together. We refused to lose that game. Once we locked in, we had one more game left. I knew we were going to win it. I knew we had it in the bag.”

Sophomore guard/forward Jakob Zenon: “Game 2 of the national tournament (against Brookdale). Because we pulled out that win, we knew we could finish the whole thing.”

Freshman forward Anden Holmes: “We played at Navarro (on Nov. 7). We got down big at the half, but we never started pointing fingers at each other. We came back and won that game against a Division I opponent, so that’s when I really thought we had something special.”

The biggest challenge we overcame was … 

Freshman guard Anthony Solomon: “Just the month of August and September (during conditioning drills). If you can make it through that, especially looking at the guys to the left and right of you, you see them make it through that and you have a different respect for those guys.”

Smith: “Us losing to McLennan on a buzzer beater (on Nov. 29). After that, everybody just locked in. We didn’t want to have that feeling anymore.”

The key to our 23-game winning streak was … 

Deng: “Domination. Every time we went out to go play, we wanted to dominate every single team we played.”

Zenon: “Consistency. Coming in and working hard every day in practice and staying on top of things.”

Being able to say that I’m a ‘national champion’ means …  

Deng: “I’m a winner. You can’t take it away from me, man. In Division I, Division II, Division III, NCAA, NJCAA, NAIA … there’s always just one winner, one team standing. I’m able to say I was part of the last team standing.”

Smith: “It means true excellence. Every day you came with a good mindset and brought excellence every day.”

Zenon: “It’s amazing because not everybody can say they won a national championship at any level.”

Pushing for No. 6 …

The Blazers don’t have a slogan for next season yet, but they’ll certainly be driven to extend their record to six championships. Asked what he’d build the slogan around, Zenon pointed to basketball legend Michael Jordan and his six NBA championships.

“Sheesh, Jordan got six championships, we need something to tie in with him,” he said.

Published inCampus LifeSportsStudent Success Story