Rylan Jones, the Olympus High product whose career had stops as the starting guard for Utah and Utah State, helped Samford lock up its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2000.

Jones scored six points, dished out four assists, blocked a shot and grabbed two rebounds as Samford defeated East Tennessee State 76-69 to win the Southern Conference tournament championship — the Bulldogs’ first ever.

“I’m so happy for this team, I’m so happy for Samford University,” Samford head coach Bucky McMillan said in a school press release. “I remember sitting in here our first year and playing as a 10 seed, we won six games and at the end of the year we lost by 35 or 40 points to Mercer. I remember we had to recruit players for my first recruiting class, and we had to convince them that we could win this league. I said in the press conference that we would win this league and win this tournament, and we did.”

Jones started 33 games for the Bulldogs this season, averaging 9.4 points, 4.3 assists and three rebounds. He helped guide the Bulldogs to a 29-5 overall record and a 15-3 Southern Conference record.

It’s just the third overall ticket to the Big Dance in Samford history.