Oakland secures first Horizon League Tournament crown

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Photo courtesy of Oakland Athletics

Greg Kampe admitted that when Oakland joined the Horizon League, he wasn’t worried about not winning. Oakland had made three NCAA Tournaments in the last eight years leading up to the conference change. It had become normal.

So the drought of over a decade frustrated many, including Kampe. Oakland always has had good Horizon League teams and players, but the missing piece to the puzzle had yet to be found.

Until Tuesday night.

Oakland will head back to the big dance for the first time since 2011 after an 83-76 victory over Milwaukee. The back and forth affair was decided in the last few minutes, and one man brought the Golden Grizzlies home.

Trey Townsend put up a career high 38 points, 11 rebounds, and five assists en route to being named tournament MVP. He seemed to get stronger as he wore down Milwaukee defenders, putting up 27 points in the second half. The storybook story only got more storybook as “Mr. Oakland” put up one of the all time performances in program history.

“He  would not believe any of this that has happened,” Townsend said when asked about what childhood Trey would say if he saw the accomplishments that present-day Trey is racking up for the program he grew up around. 

“I told our team heroes are made in March, and someone tonight is going to put on a cape,” said Kampe.

On the biggest night of the year, the hero was the one who it has been all year.

But just like any hero story, it wasn’t without help from his friends.

Jack Gohlke earned a spot on the All-tournament team, making 12 threes in the two Indy games. He hit five in the final, good for 15 points.The league’s sixth man of the year delivered once again, in the biggest moment of his career.

Oakland has had an advantage inside for most of the year, and Townsend deservedly has eaten up most of the headlines. This win, and this season however, does not happen without Chris Conway.

Conway logged his first career double double against a D1 opponent on Tuesday, pouring in 11 points and 10 boards. The big man also had 3 blocks the second most in his career, one behind his 4 block performance in the quarterfinal round. Conway’s teammates stole all of the awards away from him this year, but an even bigger outburst may be on the horizon if this tourney run is any indication. 

Conway’s presence inside set the tone defensivley, and the Golden Grizzlies totaled a whopping 11 blocks in the game. Milwaukee is loaded with talented finishers at the rim, and they had their fair share, but everything was made tough. Along with Conway, Townsend added a block, Buru Naivalurua provided 2 highlight blocks, even Tone Hunter was in on the action.

The team leader however, was Blake Lampman, with four.

It is clear that down the stretch, the injuries have caught up to Lampman, as we have not seen the scoring outburst that he was having when healthier. But what Lampman has done has found every other way to be effective. Along with the blocks, he grabbed 5 rebounds, had 3 assists, and snatched a few steals, while also still finding a way to 12 points. 

Lampman has seen it all in his time at Oakland, and he gave praise to his coach for getting to this moment. 

“I came to Oakland to learn from Coach Kampe,” Lampman said. “I love that dude.”

“He’s the GOAT.”

It is hard to call Kampe the GOAT, but he is certainly a legend. The longest tenured coach in the country now has made it to the tournament four times, in three different decades. He now has 698 career wins in his 40 years of service.

Kampes story is still being written, but now that the Golden Grizzlies have gotten back to the big dance in this new league, there will never be any argument about his legacy. The crowd, the team, and the stage Oakland was on last night is simply incredible when thinking about where it all started. The Golden Grizzlies put on a show, and they are lucky to have Greg Kampe conducting it.

Oakland will now have to wait to know its future. The tournament selection show will be on Sunday at 6pm, with the Golden Grizzlies taking up one of the 68 spots in the field.

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