Smile Politely

The Parkland men’s basketball team continues to dominate

The Parkland Men's basketball team standing and sitting in the Parkland gym in two rows. They are wearing yellow jersey's with green letters and numbers on their jerseys. the player in the center front row is holding an orange basketball.
Parkland Men’s basketball

Folks, we made it. March is finally here and bringing with it college basketball postseason games and a chance for us true sporting fans, gambling addicts, and washed-up athletes to distract ourselves from work and complain to strangers about the clutch performances of players who are barely old enough to vote. It’s the best time of year. While we get emotionally invested in the Fighting Illini, why not hedge our fandom and support another local program that consistently produces top tier talent and results with far less fanfare, the Parkland Cobras?

The Parkland athletic department has been a national powerhouse for decades with consistent conference championship runs and top national rankings across all their men’s and women’s teams. It’s no different this year as the Cobra men’s basketball team has already started their journey through the NJCAA II national championship tournament taking place this week.

Despite reaching as high as the number one nationally ranked team during the season, the bigwigs who make decisions in this sort of thing were unlikely to choose them as one of the four non-regional champion teams to make the tournament, as they lost a couple of winnable games down the stretch of the regular season. This meant the Cobras would need to win three elimination games against conference opponents, including a rematch against their rival, and the team that knocked them out of the championship games last year, Danville Area Community College. Despite dealing with injuries and illness, they did just that.

After beating Lewis and Clark Community College last week 108-48 in Champaign, the Cobras hit the road to play out the remaining games at Rend Lake Community College in Southern Illinois. In a drama laden semi-final, they avenged last year’s championship game loss by pulling away in the second half and defeating Danville Area Community College 73-47. The championship game came the next day against John Wood Community College, where once again the team broke away from a back-and-forth game claiming the Region 24 championship with a 73-56 victory.

A group of young men wearing gray jerseys with green writing, stand together holding the Region 24 Championship trophy. They are standing on a basketball court.
Parkland College Athletics

Now, for the 31st year in a row, all eyes of the Men’s Division II Junior College basketball world will turn towards Danville, Illinois and the Mary Miller Gymnasium, where the final 20 teams from around the country will face off March 18th through 24th. Parkland has had three top ten finishes in Danville since 2014, including a seventh place finish as recently as 2021, but only one national title in 1985-86. This year’s team has stayed in the top 20 all season, and has a great opportunity to make a deep run this year.

Parkland was given the seven seed and a tough opening round match up with ten seed St. Clair County (Michigan) on Tuesday. The game went back and forth the entire second half, but the Cobras’ stifling defense and timely play-making on offense, supported by a raucous home crowd, made the difference. St. Clair battled back after trailing by seven at the half, taking the lead multiple times and made the last few minutes a frantic affair. But clutch defense and two huge free throws by sophomore Grant Coleman with five seconds left secured the 64-60 victory.

Two players fight for possession of a basketball while running down the court. One wears a gray and green jersey and the other wears a royal blue and white jersey.
Rod Shilts

The Cobras will have a day off before taking on the number two overall seed, and the only other team from Illinois in the tournament, South Suburban College from Cook County. These teams played at South Suburban in January where the Cobras were handed one of their few losses of the season. If the men can keep up the defensive pressure they’ll be in great position to win the rematch and move one game closer to capping a season that has already seen them claim the conference championship, regional championship, district championship, conference and regional player of the year, and conference and district coach of the year with the ultimate prize — a national championship.

When the Cobras spot in the tournament was official, Parkland Assistant Coach and Centennial basketball legend Coleco Buie said to me, “We are thrilled to make the nationals. Our kids have worked hard in the offseason and during the season to get to this point. Last year we lost in the championship game just to get here. With the four at large bids being added it will make the tournament better but there will not be any easy wins.” (The four additional teams being the newly added at-large bids in this year’s tournament format.)


The team and coaching staff include plenty of area athletes to support, including conference player of the year Jabryn Anderson, and are led by second year Head Coach and Conference Coach of the Year John Bowler. The next game against South Suburban is March 21 at 7 p.m., and you can watch the games online on the NJCAA exclusive streaming network, or take the 30-minute trip down I-74 and support the team in person.

NJCAA Region 24 Semifinals
Mary Miller Gymnasium
2504 Bumgart Ave 
Th March 21st, 6 p.m.
Tickets available online

More Articles