March 25, 2011

Payne Enjoying Post Season Run

By Carolyn Linck, '11

The Bronco basketball team has been on a post-season run in the Tournament (CIT) beating Northern Arizona University, Air Force and a fellow WCC team, San Francisco, to advance to the CIT semifinals.  The chance to extend their season well into March is one the Broncos are savoring.  Senior Troy Payne is particularly enjoying the chance to continue his career in the CIT.

"We were excited to play in this tournament. Not every team in America gets to play in the post season," explained Payne.  "It's a special opportunity and from the start we knew we wanted to make the most of it."

Indeed, this is the Broncos' first trip to the post season in 15 years and their first under head coach Kerry Keating.  The Broncos are hoping to make the most of this post-season appearance and use it to continue to build the program.  For seniors like Payne, it also allows them to expand their college basketball careers by a few more games.

"It has been great to get the extra practice in, to face new competition and have more time with my teammates," said Payne.  "Playing in this tournament has given me the chance to extend my career with Santa Clara basketball, and I'm thankful for that."

Payne, who scored a career high 18 points in the first round game versus Northern Arizona, said he especially appreciated getting to play in the Leavey Center two more times. 

"I love playing in Leavey, and we had a lot of people to come out and support us, so it was really great.  It was kind of like getting another senior night in a way," said Payne.  "I'm not ready to be done playing, and I knew I didn't want my last game to be a loss at Santa Clara.  Nobody wanted to end the season like that, so as a team we all stepped up to make sure that didn't happen."

After advancing past the first two rounds, beating Northern Arizona and Air Force at home, the Broncos faced WCC and Bay Area rival, San Francisco, in the quarterfinals at War Memorial Gymnasium.  Payne says knocking out USF, who had beaten Santa Clara twice in the regular season, has been the highlight of the tournament thus far. 

"We had a lot of people come to USF to support us, which was great.  It was a really close, exciting game, and everyone stepped up to get the win in a hostile environment," said Payne. 

Payne credits several of his teammates for their play against the Dons.

"Evan was playing out of his mind, scoring 30 points.  Niyi had a crazy LeBron-style block that was really key for us and got the whole team excited.  It was an emotional game because we have a bit of a rivalry going with them.  It was a great feeling, to be able to extend our season while ending theirs by playing together and trusting one another."

Payne and the rest of the Broncos will face Southern Methodist University on Fri., March 25 at 5 pm in the semifinals.  The winner will advance to the championship game on Wed. March 30 versus either Iona or East Tennessee State.  Though they have enjoyed their post season run so far, the Broncos think it is far from over.

"We've gotten this far, and we don't want to quit now," said Payne.  "We want to win the whole thing.  We know we can beat any team in this tournament if we play together.  We're strong as a team and only getting stronger."