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UNC-Charlotte defeated Wisconsin-Whitewater 38-10 to win the men’s DII College 7s national championship. The 49ers knocked off a Whitewater team that had claimed the last two 15s national titles and defeated them 26-5 in last year’s 7s national title.
Charlotte came into the weekend with a different mentality this go around. Last year seemingly gave the team confidence and they were ready to tackle every opponent they played.
“The big difference between last year and this year was our mindset. We knew what we were capable of and that there was no force that could stop us,” said 49ers captain Ryan Johns.
The North Carolina side won all three of its pool play games and settled in as the number two seed in the cup rounds. After beating Principia and Bloomsburg, they had a date with Whitewater.
“We took it one game at a time because you cannot overlook anybody,” Johns added. “But UWW was always in the back of our mind and we knew it would come down to us versus them.”
Whitewater beat up the rest of the field for most of the weekend and shut out Old Dominion and NC State in route to the finals.
In the final, Charlotte opened up and maintained possession for the first minute of the game. They finally broke through the line an one offload later Michael Basnett, the guy they call Meerkat, sprinted in under the posts for the games first score.
Basnett added to the score with a work of individual brilliance. After marshaling his team to the left of the field he took on two Whitewater defenders and beat them wide for a 14-0 lead. The speedster would add two more tries later in the game and earned a well deserved MVP Award. In total, he has tallied a blistering 47 tries this year.
“Meerkat is our secret weapon. Nobody has an answer for him. We have dogs everywhere on the field that can create opportunities for us but that man has talent that is absolutely incredible,” Johns said of Basnett.
Whitewater, did however, make this a game after the opening two tries. Try scoring machine Alec Treuthhardt used his pace to bust through a gap and take it the distance. After the ensuing kickoff, the Warhawks forced a turnover inside the Charlotte five meter line. After a couple of phases they powered over to cut the lead to 14-10.
The rest of the game was all Charlotte, though. Basnett got the hat trick close to halftime using some tremendous foot skills. After a pass went over his head backwards, Basnett kicked the ball forward and sprinted onto it. With two defenders closing he kicked it forward once again and field a perfect bounce to take it into the corner. It was 19-10 at half.
Whitewater hoped to get back into it in the second half but knocked the ball on deep in Charlotte territory. Off the resulting scrum, a well executed scrum play saw Tyrek Hundley spin out of a tackle and sprint the length of the field for a 26-10 lead.
Basnett got his fourth a few minutes later, once again using his foot. A chip and chase ended with he and a Whitewater defender sprawled in the corner. After a TMO review, the try was awarded and the lead extended to 31-10. Blake Jackson would add one more score late to seal the win.
It is the first title in school history that the team has won a national title and the boys are proud to be a part of history.
“Coach John Brown said before the game that it was our time to seize the moment,” Johns said. “The vibe on this team was that we could win it all this season because of how bad it stung last year. I told the guys we will win and we came together and a memory that will last forever.”