By BLAKE TOPPMEYER
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
The Quincy University men's basketball team didn't clinch its spot in the 12-team Great Lakes Valley Conference Tournament until the penultimate game of the season, when it won 49-46 at Maryville.
QU senior forward Tyler Thompson found a positive in that, however.
"It wasn't set in stone. We were fighting for a spot," Thompson said after that Feb. 23 win. "I think because we fought for a spot, we don't take it for granted, maybe like some teams."
The No. 11-seeded Hawks (12-14, 7-11) will play a first-round game against No. 6 Lewis (18-8, 12-6) at 2 p.m. Sunday at Romeoville, Ill. The winner will advance to Thursday's quarterfinals at the Ford Center in Evansville, Ind. The semifinals and championship also will be in Evansville. All first-round games are being hosted at the site of the better seed Sunday.
The Hawks come into the tournament knowing that their only chance to qualify for the NCAA Division II Tournament is by winning the tournament title and claiming the automatic bid.
"This is all or nothing," Thompson said.
Eight teams from the Midwest Region qualify for the Division II Tournament. The winners of the GLVC and Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletics Conference tournaments will get automatic bids, and the six remaining teams highest in the region rankings were receive at-large bids.
Lewis is a bubble team, as the Flyers were ranked No. 8 in the region rankings released Wednesday. The Flyers come into the GLVC Tournament as the GLVC East's hottest team, having won four straight games.
Drury, the tournament's top seed, comes into the GLVC Tournament riding a 14-game winning streak and is ranked No. 1 in the Midwest Region. The East, however, is once again viewed as the power side of the league. The East has six of the top nine teams in the region rankings.
QU went 0-4 against the East this season, but it did not face Lewis.
The Hawks enter the postseason with junior guard Chris Babbitt as their leading scorer at 14.9 points per game and second-leading rebounder at 5.2 per game. Babbitt has reached double figures in scoring in all but four games this season.
Thompson is second on the team in scoring at 12.8 points per game and averages at team-best 5.4 rebounds per game. QU freshman center Dalton Hoover is averaging 6.5 points and 3.5 rebounds per game, but he peaked late in the season. He reached double figures in scoring in three of his final four regular-season games.
To win the GLVC Tournament title, the Hawks will need to win four straight games. They haven't strung together more than two consecutive wins during the regular season.
Still, they aren't ready to concede anything.
"It's never over until the clock says 0:00 at the end of the year," Babbitt said after the Maryville win. "We just have to keep fighting until all the games are over."