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Best in the Belt

Another Sun Belt Conference championship is headed to Troy, although this time it was not the football team responsible for it.

For the first time ever, the Trojan basketball team was the last team standing at the conclusion of the regular season, thanks to its win over Arkansas State Saturday night.

“A very proud moment for this basketball program,” head coach Don Maestri said Monday afternoon. “I am happy for these kids, especially the seniors.”

With the win, the Trojans assured themselves of a post season birth in either the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) or if the team can win the conference tournament, the NCAA Tournament.

“There were many moments this season where we were so inconsistent, I didn’t want the team to get their hopes up to high for a special season,” the coach said. “There were a lot of question marks.

There was a moment however, where everything “clicked” according to Maestri.

About three weeks ago, the team had a players only meeting.

Maestri said he didn’t know what was discussed, but the aftermath of the meeting was visible at the practice following it – and throughout the remainder of the season.

“I have never seen a group of guys come out of a meeting and go with so much intensity during a practice.

“You could see, everyone the team, from the starters to the red-shirt players, all had the same feeling and dedication to winning,” Maestri said. “It was pretty remarkable.”

This is not the first time Maestri has seen a team come together like this.

“Every championship team I have ever coached has had a moment like this,” he said.

“It’s something that you cannot coach.”

Where this current squad ranks with some of Maestri’s past teams is still undecided, according to the coach.

“We won’t know after this weekend or even until the post season is over for us,” he said.

“Getting this far is great, but we are still shooting for more.”

As far as the celebrating goes, the coach said the Monday was their day to be on “Cloud 9,” and that would be it.

“We will spend on (Monday) talking about the championship, the postseason and the rings – but that’s it.”

“On Tuesday, I expect the guys to come back to work and focus on getting prepared for our next game. With something like this, you have to back up what you say and (Monday) will be the only time I talk about (the championship),” he added. “We can’t let distraction get to us.”

Now, the Trojans will focus on its next goal – winning the Sun Belt, again.

“I hope we were able to learn something from last year’s (conference tournament),” Maestri said.

After getting a by in the first round, the Trojans were bounced in the second round by South Alabama.

“We have four senior starters from last year that remember what it was like to lose like that. It’s time for us to concentrate and get ready,” he added.

Troy will be in action on Sunday, March 7, facing the winner of the Florida Atlantic, South Alabama game in the second round of the conference tournament.