ROCKFORD - A pair of local hoopsters are in the hunt for a national title.
Brayden Hennis (Hononegah) and Bryanth Farr (Beloit Memorial) have helped guide Rock Valley College to the NJCAA Division III National Tournament, which begins Thursday in Rochester, Minn.
The Golden Eagles are seeded fifth in the eight-team bracket, and will open play against Bunker Hill Thursday at 5 p.m. at the Rochester Regional Sports Center.
This weekend marks an end to a two-year journey for Farr, who was looking like anything but a collegiate prospect following his junior season with the Purple Knights.
"Honestly, my first three years I was a bigger kid without a lot of skill," Farr said. "I had to get over the hump. Once I did that, it started clicking. My junior year, I weighed about 270 pounds and I wasn't getting any playing time. That summer, I worked really hard and dropped about 45 pounds. That's when everything started happening for me."
When Rock Valley defeated Columbus State 73-70, Farr said he was in disbelief that he would be heading to the national tournament.
"I really didn't even know what to think," Farr said. "It feels amazing because I've never been in this position before. It feels almost surreal to be at nationals. I never even won a regional title in high school, so this is all new to me. I'm at a loss for words."
While the Golden Eagles have a solid offensive attack, Farr said it's been the play on the other side of the floor that has carried them to Rochester.
"The difference for us has been the defense," Farr said. "Right now we're ranked fourth in the nation in defense. We're only allowing opponents to shoot 39 percent per game, and we only give up 68 points per game. Everything starts with our defense, because once we get stops, that's where our offense comes from."
Farr is averaging six points per game, with playing time becoming sporadic as the team hits the stretch run.
"It was hard for me to accept at first," Farr said. "But then I understand that against some teams, I'm not able to play as much because of the matchups. We'll play smaller teams where the biggest guy will be about 6-foot-4, 180 pounds, and it doesn't make much sense to play a traditional post player against a team like that."
As his time at Rock Valley comes to a close, Farr said he's more than pleased with the decision he made.
"When I first committed to Rock Valley, I saw the success they had as a premier junior college," Farr said. "When they recruited me, it was a no-brainer. The fact that I didn't have any real scholarship offers, and this was the first school that really looked at me that had a lot of success, I just took it and ran with it."
Farr said he's looking at a few options to play next year, including Lakeland University, the home of his former Beloit Memorial teammate Jequan Pegeese.
While Farr patrols the paint when he enters the game, Hennis is most comfortable around the 3-point line. The freshman is averaging 5.4 points per game and shooting a stellar 37 percent from behind the arc.
He hit a trey in Rock Valley's win over Columbus State and puts in around 15 minutes per game.