COLUMBIA — About 9 p.m. Tuesday, Columbia College basketball coach Bob Burchard rose up a ladder under the hoop at Southwell Arena until his distinctive white mustache almost cleared the rim.
For a minute, Burchard was taller than everyone else, fitting for a man at the head of a program that just validated its now long-assumed place at the top of the American Midwest Conference.
Multiple Cougars earned All-Conference honors following Tuesday's AMC championship tournament final.
Jordan Dressler: Co-Player of the Year
Bob Burchard: Coach of the Year
Derrick Dilworth: Newcomer of the Year
All-Conference first team: Devin Griffin, Derrick Dilworth, Jordan Dressler
All-Conference second team: Marquette Murrell
“I’ve never been this high before!” he shouted to his team, which was waiting for him at the ladder’s base, net snippets in hand.
But Burchard should be used to it by now. His Cougars won their second consecutive AMC tournament championship Tuesday night by defeating Park University 77-63, making it four of the past six years Columbia College has had a chance to cut down a net.
“It’s a dream come true,” said forward Jordan Dressler, who registered a game-high 20 points and five blocks and was named AMC Player of the Year afterward for the second year in a row. “It’s better the second time because its the most recent.”
Columbia College led by as many as 20 points in the second half, but Park cut the deficit to five with 9:25 to play thanks to the strong shooting of guards Xavielle Brown (17 points) and Venton Wilder (16 points).
Cougars guard Devin Griffin (14 points) scored in traffic on the next possession and then Zach Rockers hit his last of four three-pointers, a no-hesitation shot that put Columbia College up by 10 and in control for good.
Rockers said this year’s championship is sweeter for him because he had a much larger role on the team compared to last season. Last year, Rockers was buried behind two talented seniors. But this season he has contributed heavily to the Cougars' 33-0 record, connecting on a team-high 74 3-pointers. None were more important to the Cougars cutting down the nets than the four he hit Tuesday night.
“I can say I loosened them (the nets) up a little bit, I guess,” he said smiling.
Burchard was all smiles as well as he descended down the ladder net in hand, still undefeated, again No. 1 after another dominant year of Cougar basketball in the AMC.
He still remembers the first time a Columbia College team of his cut a net down. It was Burchard’s first season, 1988. He told his players they could cut the net down if they beat the school record for most wins in a season. They weren’t going to the tournament. He just wanted them to experience what accomplishment felt like.
“It’s great every time,” Burchard said, when asked if it ever gets old. “It’s great every single time.”
Supervising editor is Grant Hodder.