Saturday, Feb. 25 and Sunday, Feb. 26 were two days of suspense and jubilation for sports fans who attended the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference (GCAC) single elimination tournament held on the historic Tougaloo College campus, which is one of the eight GCAC member institutions. The Kroger Gymnasium in the Owens Health & Wellness Center was the tournament host site.
The GCAC tournament featured both women’s and men’s competitions with play that began at 1:00 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 23 and concluded on Sunday afternoon, Feb. 26 with the Tougaloo College men Bulldogs winning the championship as they defeated the Philander Smith College Panthers in a barnburner shoot out by a score of 62-61. Eric Strothers serves as the head basketball coach for the Tougaloo College men.
On the men’s side, Tougaloo’s Bulldogs were looking to defend their tournament title. Capping off a perfect 14-0 season in the GCAC, the Bulldogs solidified the regular season title and No. 1 seed by taking on No. 8 Southern University at New Orleans (0-14). Philander Smith (10-4) came in at No. 2 and took on No. 7 Oakwood (2-12). Dillard Bleu Devils (9-5) enter tournament No. 3 on a three-game win streak. They battled No. 6 Fisk while No. 4 Wiley (8-6) took on No. 5 Rust College (7-7). The Tougaloo men defeated Wiley College 75-69 during the semifinals to reach championship tournament play.
Tougaloo’s women Bulldogs ballers were defeated by Philander Smith (Panthers) by a score of 63-45 on Friday, Feb. 24 during the quarterfinals of play. Keith Barnes is the head basketball coach for the Tougaloo College women’s team.
The Lady Bearcats of Rust College secured the No. 1 seed, finishing the regular season 12-2 in conference play by facing No. 8 seed Southern University at New Orleans’ (1-13) Lady Knights. The battle for No. 2 came down to the wire, with Fisk edging out Philander Smith on the final day of conference play through the conference tiebreaker ruling. The Lady Bulldogs (11-3) took on No. 7 Oakwood (3-11). The No. 3 spot belonged to Philander Smith (11-3), and they took on the host school No. 6 Tougaloo. Rounding out the women’s bracket was the No. 4 Wiley Lady Wildcats (7-7), battling the No. 5 Dillard Lady Bleu Devils (6-8).
The women of Rust College (Bearcats) won the ladies overall championship game defeating the Panthers of Philander Smith College by a score of 51-50. Eric Jackson Jr. is the Rust College women’s head basketball coach.
Hank Aaron Sports Academy owner, Tim Bennett said, “The Inaugural Hope Credit Union 2023 GCAC Tournament was successful, and we are anticipating bidding again next year to have the tournament return here in Jackson. I’m thankful for all of our sponsors supporting this event and looking forward to their continued support of all future activities and events presented by the Hank Aaron Sports Academy.”
All tournament games were broadcast on HBCU League Pass+ the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference Channel (02) as well as all member school channels. Download the HBCU League Pass+ mobile app to follow all the action. The tournament was brought to fans by Colombean Coffee Company.
The GCAC is celebrating its 40th year as a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). The GCAC is one of only five conferences comprised of members representing Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the United States. The GCAC membership includes Dillard University (LA), Fisk University (TN), Oakwood University (AL), Philander Smith College (AR), Rust College (MS), Southern University at New Orleans (LA), Tougaloo College (MS), and Wiley College (TX).