FORT WAYNE, Ind. — Randolph-Macon head coach Josh Merkel has a phrase he likes to use with his players: "Scared goes home."
Apparently, "not scared" goes home as well, but with a trophy.
The Yellow Jackets capped off the best season in program history with the first national title in school history after a 75-45 win over Elmhurst in the Division Three national title game in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Josh Talbert led the Jackets with 15 points and 11 rebounds while senior Buzz Anthony, who was named the national player of the year just prior to tip off, had 14 points in his final collegiate game.
"We play to a standard," Anthony explained. "We say that practice is our toughest games. We've got a great group of players."
Miles Mallory (2nd team All American) and Daniel Mbangue added 10 points each as the Jackets rolled up their Final Four competition by an average of 25 points per night.
After two shortened seasons due to Covid that ended with wins, but not titles, Randolph-Macon's players could finally put to rest the question of whether or not they could see a season all the way through to a championship.
"Everybody sees this," Merkel said of the celebration. "But there's been a lot of underlying things, so it is gratifying to get here."
"I would lay in my bed staring at the ceiling wondering, 'When can I play basketball again?'" Mallory admitted about the Covid shortened campaigns. "I guess the hunger has been building up for two years now. It feels great. It feels probably better than I thought."
Lavon Thomas led Elmhurst with 10 points and the Blue Jay led for all of 14 seconds in the title game before Macon went on a 21-5 run to close out the first half. Randolph-Macon finishes with a school record 33 wins this year.
"We'll be back at it," Merkel promised. "Guys will be working to get better. You get better or you get worse, you can't stay the same."