By Gordon Mann
On Saturday afternoon the “Red Sea” inside Lancaster Bible College’s Horst Athletic Center was at low tide.
The cleverly named student cheering section for the Chargers’ basketball programs was only half full since the students were still on holiday break. Those students who did see Lancaster Bible’s 108-60 thrashing of Penn State-Abington had plenty to cheer. The Chargers scored 68 points in the first half, hit several threes from well beyond NBA range and finished one of many open shot opportunities with an alley oop jam. The students congratulated the Chargers on their 10th consecutive win to start the season when one of them punctuated the celebration with a shout.
“When are we gonna be ranked?”
At the rate the Chargers are playing, the answer is soon, and maybe as soon as Monday when the next Top 25 poll is announced. Lancaster Bible is one of six undefeated teams left in Division III men’s basketball, but the only one outside the Top 25. Last week the Chargers received the highest amount of votes of teams not in Top 25. Losses by teams at the bottom of that poll may create enough room for the Chargers' first ever appearance in the Division III national rankings.
The national voters are excused for taking a wait-and-see approach on Lancaster Bible. The NEAC posted a .234 winning percentage against Division III non-conference opponents last season, which was 41st out of 43 conferences. Of the thirteen teams in the NEAC, just two have winning records this season – LBC and Morrisville State.
But the Chargers do have a signature win over the more heralded program down the road in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. LBC thrashed No. 17 Franklin & Marshall 94-66 on a neutral court back on Nov. 21. When that score was first reported, it looked like a misprint. But there’s no mistaking the Chargers' talent. Senior Bryce Williams is a long-armed, smooth shooting point guard who leads LBC’s attack that isn’t shy from trying to score from anywhere in the half court and getting quick strikes in transition.
Last season the Chargers just missed the NCAA Tournament, losing to Morrisville State 73-65 at home in the NEAC title game. LBC is also a member of the NCCAA – the National Christian College Athletic Association – so they were eligible for that national tournament. The Chargers made the best of the situation and won the NCCAA Division II national title. While the national championship banner hanging in LBC's gym looks nice, they are hoping to drop that extra C and secure the NEAC’s automatic qualifying bid to the NCAA tournament this year.
We sat down with Lancaster Bible first year head coach Zach Filzen to talk about his team, how he gathered two decades of coaching experience at age 26 and what a Top 25 ranking would mean.