After winning 12 games a year ago, the young Diplomats were picked to finish fifth in the Centennial Conference. Instead, they won the regular season and hosted the Centennial Championships. F&M fell to Gettysburg in the title game, and lost three of its last four games, prompting D3Hoops.com to dub the Diplomats ?the first-round host most likely to disappoint.
That bulletin board material pushed the upstart Diplomats through four NCAA games that restored Mayser Centers magic and carried F&M to its fifth Final Four appearance under Coach Glenn Robinson.
F&Ms cagers embarked for Salem, Va., with hundreds of ?loyal followers in their wake. A four-day itinerary of media events, community service, banquets and, by the way, basketball, awaited their arrival. Members of the team spent part of the day Thursday prior to the semifinals reading and playing with the children of West Salem Elementary School before playing in the national semifinals on Friday night.
The Diplomats had the Richard Stockton Ospreys and the championship final in their sights, but saw their national championship hopes slip away late in the game, a 62-58 loss.
I did think with about four minutes to go, we were going ?to be able to pull it off tonight, Robinson said. But Stockton really rose to the occasion. I think if we had another few minutes with another run we could have gotten back on top.
F&M faced off with Guilford College in ?the consolation game, falling 79-67 to the Quakers to finish the season in fourth place.
Robinson, who picked up his 750th career win this year, was paid tribute by D3Hoops.com, which named him its Coach of the Year. The first-year student at point, Georgio Milligan 12, was the first first-year ever named to the ?All-Centennial First Team. He also earned Mid-Atlantic Rookie of the Year honors. ?James McNally 11 was named to the Centennials and ?All Mid-Atlantic First Team.
For more stories and photo galleries from the Diplomats magical run, go to GoDiplomats.com.