|Queens basketball looks to finish season strong at Elite Eight|
|Royals look to improve on 2018 runner-up finish|
|Published Wednesday, March 20, 2019 11:20 am|
|PHOTO | HERBERT L. WHITE|
|Queens forward Lewis Diankulu hoists the regional championship trophy after the Royals beat Augusta 91-78 Tuesday at Curry Arena. The Royals earned a berth in the Division II Elite Eight in Evanston, Indiana.|
Queens basketball has unfinished business at the Division II Elite Eight.
The Royals, who lost in the national final last year, are heading to Evansville, Indiana to take the next step after earning a fourth regional championship Tuesday with a 91-78 win against Augusta. Queens, which has won a school-record 31 games, understands the task at hand.
“I feel like that’s where we belong and I feel like the job’s not done yet,” forward Lewis Diankulu said. “We’ve still got a lot of things to do, but we’re just going to keep working and keep getting better every day.”
The Royals (31-4) were good enough in the regional draw, surviving close wins against Emmanuel and Catawba before taking down Augusta for their second straight berth in the Elite Eight.
South Atlantic MVP Shaun Willett, who struggled in the first two games, exploded for 33 points on 13-of-21 shooting to spark the Royals.
“My teammates picked me up these [previous] two games and telling me to ‘keep going, just lead us,’” said Willett, who added 13 rebounds against the Jaguars (28-6). “I’ve got to thank them for everything, and these fans for everything.”
Queens coach Bart Lundy blamed himself for the Royals’ close shaves while praising his players for pushing past adversity and finding ways to win.
“I think I wore them out last week,” he said. “I think we came out a little sluggish the first game and they had to battle through, but I told them we’re practicing for the end of this. So I think I can take credit for our slower first two games and then they took over this one and you see the result.”
Queens also takes more big-game experience to the Elite Eight than their competitors, an asset that could come in handy in the tournament’s final stages.
“These guys know what to expect, and that’s an advantage,” Lundy said. “In the final 16, there was us and West Texas A&M who had experience in last year’s Elite Eight, so at most there will be only one other team that’s been there. These guys have played real well on the road, so they know how to prepare, they know how the process goes and these young guys can learn from their lead.”
The eight regional champions will be reseeded by the NCAA selection committee, with the quarterfinals tipping off Feb. 27.
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