TVCC Sports Notes from the Road: Home again

The National Champion Lady Cardinals arrived home Sunday night and were greeted by more than 100 fans. (MICHAEL V. HANNIGAN PHOTO)
The National Champion Lady Cardinals arrived home Sunday night and were greeted by more than 100 fans. (MICHAEL V. HANNIGAN PHOTO)

By Benny Rogers/TVCC Sports Information

How sweet it is!

Shortly before 7 p.m. Sunday, the 2013 NJCAA champion Lady Cardinals pulled intot he parking lot in front of Cardinal Gym. They were greeted by over a 100 cheering fans. Wearing broad smiles, they departed the bus with the championship trophy hoisted high above their heads. The hugging and photo taking began.

That pretty much summed up and put a wrap on a week in which the Lady Cardinals won their seventh national title and second straight.

For the record, the Lady Cardinals scored an 83-71 win against Central Arizona in the NJCAA title game Saturday night at the Bicentennial Center in Salina, KS. It was the third straight year they had appeared in the final game of the tournament and the third time they had faced Central Arizona for the title.

In addition to keeping the Lady Cardinals atop the world of NJCAA women’s basketball, the win gave them an official 36-1 record for the season. On the court (not counting the forfeit to Weatherford in December for a lack of healthy eligible players), they were 36-0 for a second consecutive year.

Against Central Arizona, the Lady Cardinals built a 46-33 halftime lead. Shlonte’ Allen led four players in double figures with 22 points. Krystle Henderson and Shannon Smith had 14 each and Adut Bulgak 10. Savannah Carter tossed in nine.

Victoria Wells finished with seven points and led the Lady Cardinals with seven rebounds. She also had one block and one steal.

Roddricka Patton led the defensive effort, which forced 18 Central Arizona turnovers. Patton had a game-high five steals.

Central Arizona, which has four national titles (second to the Lady Cardinals’ seven) and has lost in the title game four times, closed the year 32-2 (both losses to the Lady Cardinals).

Smith, was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. She was the top Lady Cardinal scorer in three of their four games and averaged 22.0 points per game. She shot 52.8 percent from the floor.

Allen and Henderson were both named to the all-tournament team.

The title game appearance was the 10th for the Lady Cardinals, who are 10-0 in national semifinal games. They are now 7-3 in title games, having won the title in ’94, ’96, ’97, ’99, ’04, ’12 and ’13.

With their 4-0 record in the 24-team, single-elimination tournament, the Lady Cardinals are now 53-16 in national tournament games.

The Lady Cardinals have won 72 of their last 73 games (72 straight on the court). They have also won 106 of their last 110.

In leading the Lady Cardinals to national title No. 7, Elena Lovato ran her career coaching record to 77-7. She is 45-3 at TVCC.

The 4-0 record at the national tournament also moved the college’s overall record to 989-225. Since the 1993-94 season (the first national title season), the Lady Cardinals are 612-55.

Lovato is now the fourth Lady Cardinal head coach to win a national title, joining Kurt Budke, Michael Landers and Kenya Landers.

If you didn’t get a chance to watch the title game, or you want to watch it again, here is the link for a replay: http://www.ihigh.com/njcaatv/broadcast_282876.html?silverlight=1

Plans for a college/community celebration of the Lady Cardinals’ national title will be finalized later this week. Watch for an announcement and then make plans to attend #CELEBRATING7.

The Lady Cardinals would like to thank all the fans making the trip to Salina for the tournament. They are also thankful of all the fans watching online back and and proudly wearing red. Your support and positive vibes were definitely appreciated and helped bring #CHASING7 to a successful conclusion.

I leave you with this final thought: 7-time NJCAA champion Lady Cardinals.

TVCC Lady Cardinals win National Championship

TVCC's Shannon Smith (5), shown here in action against Weatherford earlier in the tournament, was named the 2013 NJCAA National Championship Tournament MVP. (BENNY ROGERS/TVCC PHOTO)
TVCC’s Shannon Smith (5), shown here in action against Weatherford earlier in the tournament, was named the 2013 NJCAA National Championship Tournament MVP. (BENNY ROGERS/TVCC PHOTO)

(Updated Sunday 8:09 a.m. with quotes from Coach Lovato and edits for clarity … Updated 10:56 with All-Tournament Team … Updated 10:10 with MVP announced …. Updated 9:49 with scoring stats)

By mvhannigan

The Trinity Valley Lady Cardinals were on a mission all season summed up in the hashtag: #chasing7.

Well … they finally caught it.

The Lady Cards earned the school’s seventh national title — and second in a row — by beating the Central Arizona Vaqueras, 83-71, in Salina, Kansas Saturday night.

TVCC was in front for most of the game and opened up double-digit leads on multiple occasions, but Central Arizona just kept coming back.

“They weren’t going to go down without a fight,” said TVCC Head Coach Elena Lovato.

The win showed the depth of TVCC as the Lady Cardinals’ bench outscored Central Arizona 29-7. The Lady Cards also outshot the Vaqueras behind the three-point line, 24-3.

“We used our depth to wear them out,” Lovato said. “I thought Dominique Brooks came on and saved the day.”

In the second half, when TVCC post Adult Bulgak went to the bench after picking up her fourth foul, the Vaqueras started pounding the ball inside and beating the Lady Cardinals on the offensive boards.

“I needed a ‘big’ to step up and help stop their run,” Lovato said. “Domo got her shot and proved to be a huge factor.”

“We needed all 10 of the girls to keep the pressure on them,” she said. “They didn’t have the depth at the guard position to handle it. I really feel like our depth was what did it for us.”

While the title is the second straight for the program, this year’s team is completely different than last year’s. Not a single player or coach remains from the 2012 squad.

Head Coach Elena Lovato was hired after co-head coaches Michael and Kenya Landers left for the University of Mississippi after last year’s championship win. Lovato had to totally rebuild both her staff and team from scratch.

“I knew I had a bunch of great pieces to a puzzle, but the for everything to flow so smoothly and for the pieces to fit just right is what baffles me,” she said. “That’s why I know this is God’s plan.”

“This is a special group of young ladies who became a family and adore the community,” Lovato said. “I’m sure this group considers Athens a home away from home just like I did after my first time here.”

The Lady Cardinals finish the season 36-1 with their only loss an early season forfeit. TVCC has not lost a game on the court in more than two years.

TVCC’s Shannon Smith was named the tournament Most Valuable Player. Shlonte’ Allen and Krystle Henderson were named to the All-Tournament Team for the Lady Cardinals.

The Lady Cardinals were led by Allen’s 22 points, while Smith and Henderson both added 14. Bulgak had 10, Savannah Carter 9, Victorial Wells 7, Roddricka Patton 3, and Kyhonta Doughty and Brooks both added 2.

Patton had 5 steals for the game, while Wells had 7 rebounds. Bulgak added 6 rebounds and Carter had 5 boards.

Central Arizona finished the year with a 32-2 record.

Joymesia Howard led Central with 24 points.

TVCC’s lead was 46-33 at the half.

TVCC Sports Notes on the Road: Championship Saturday

(COURTESY PHOTO BENNY ROGERS/TVCC)
(COURTESY PHOTO BENNY ROGERS/TVCC)

By Benny Rogers/TVCC Sports Information

And then there were two.

The two most successful programs in the history of NJCAA women’s basketball square off in the national championship game tonight. The Lady Cardinals (35-1) and Central Arizona (32-1) tangle in the title game for a third time in a 7 p.m. tipoff at the Bicentennial Center in Salina, KS.

The Lady Cardinals, appearing in the title game for a third straight year and 10th overall, have won six national championships. Central Arizona has won four titles and is making its eighth title game appearance.

The two teams met in back-to-back national title games in 1998 (the first year the tournament was in Salina) and 1999. Central Arizona won the first one, denying the Lady Cardinals an unbeaten season. The Lady Cardinals got even the next year to cap a perfect season.

The Lady Cardinals won their titles in ’94, ’96, 97, ’99, ’04 and ’12. Central Arizona claimed championships in ’89, ’98, ’05 and ’09.

The Lady Cardinals suffered title game losses in ’95, ’98 and ’11. Central Arizona lost in the finals in ’99, ’07 and ’08.

Tonight’s game will not only be a rematch of the title games in 1998 and ’99, but also of a meeting earlier this season at the WNIT Tournament in Midland. The Lady Cardinals handed Central Arizona its only loss, 66-63.

The Lady Cardinals enter the title game riding a 24-game winning streak. The lone loss was a forfeit to Weatherford in December. Central Arizona has won 28 in a row.

The Lady Cardinals advanced to the title game with a 75-71 win against Gulf Coast in the semifinals. The win ran their record in national semifinals to 10-0.

Shannon Smith, who led the Lady Cardinals with 23 points, hit two free throws with 4.5 seconds left after Krystle Henderson came up with a game-saving steal under the Gulf Coast goal. Her pass to Smith resulted in Gulf Coast having to foul.

Also scoring in double figures were Shlonte’ Allen with 19 and Adut Bulgak 11. Bulgak also grabbed 11 rebounds.

The score was tied 33-33 at the half.

Central Arizona moved into the title game with a 52-40 win against Hutchinson. Central Arizona raced out to a 23-0 lead and was up 30-10 at the half.

Hutchinson (35-2) and Gulf Coast (29-5) will meet in the third-place game at 5 p.m.

You can watch tonight’s title game online at www.njcaatv.ihigh.com. Also, for audio only, you can hear the games at www.KSAL.com.

If you would like to follow the game on Twitter, follow Athens Review Sports at @AthensReviewSpo. Joe Elerson will be providing updates.

University of Texas head women’s basketball coach Karen Aston was in attendance at both semifinal games Friday.

It’s 34 with light snow in Salina this morning. Snow is expected to increase later in the day. The area is under a Winter Storm Warning with the possibility up to five inches of snow through noon Sunday.

It’s time to go all out all you Lady Cardinal fans back home. Make sure to wear red while you watch the title game online tonight. Also, keep those positive thoughts and vibes coming.

TVCC Sports Notes on the Road: Game Day vs. Blinn

weatherfordBy Benny Rogers, TVCC Sports Information

The Lady Cardinals had to beat Blinn twice during the regular season to win a 12th straight conference championship. They had to Blinn to win a sixth straight regional championship.

Now, to keep their hopes alive for a second straight national championship alive, they must again beat … you guessed it … Blinn.

The Lady Cardinals (33-1) are scheduled to take on Blinn (32-3) in quarterfinal action today at the 2013 NJCAA Women’s National Basketball Tournament at the Bicentennial Center in Salina, Kan. Game time is 1 p.m.

At stake is a spot in the Final Four. The winner moves on to face the Gulf Coast-Shelton State winner in the semifinals Friday at 6 p.m.

The Lady Cardinals are 9-0 in national semifinal games in their previous 17 trips to the tournament. They are 6-3 in national title games.

The Lady Cardinals were an 89-72 winner against Blinn in Brenham. They won 94-88 in overtime in the rematch at Cardinal Gym. In the regional title game, the Lady Cardinals scored a 69-58 win.

Today’s game will not only be the fourth TVCC-Blinn game this season. It will be the third one in 19 days.

The Lady Cardinals and Blinn had the day off Tuesday.

In Tuesday’s games, it was: Central Arizona 82, Crowder 57; Chipola 66, Southern Idaho 57; Hutchinson 77, ASA 55 and Northwest Florida 65, Walters State 60.

Quarterfinal action scheduled after the TVCC-Blinn game finds Gulf Coast vs. Shelton State, Central Arizona vs. Chipola and Hutchinson vs. Northwest Florida.

In case you’re wondering how hosting the tournament impacts Salina financially, Chamber of Commerce officials said Tuesday the event brings up to $650,000 annually to the local economy.

Salina is located in north-central Kansas. The population is 47,707.

Notable individuals who were born in and/or have lived in Salina include Kurt Budke, Marlin Fitzwater, Paul Harvey, Gene Mauch, Steven Hawley and Terence Newman.

The 1980 teen comedy film “Up The Academy” was filmed entirely in Salina.

All Lady Cardinal tournament games will be available for viewing online at www.njcaatv.ihigh.com. In fact, all tournament games will be webcast. Also, for audio only, you can hear the games at www.KSAL.com.

It’s 35 and cloudy in Salina this morning. The high is expected to reach 46 today. There is a 30 percent chance of morning showers. Friday, the high is predicted to be 51 with partly cloudy conditions. Saturday’s forecast is calling for snow with a high of 38.

Today would be a good day to send your positive thoughts and vibes in the directions of the Lady Cardinals.

Lady Cardinals have a little extra motivation going for them

Coach Elena Lovato
Coach Elena Lovato

By mvhannigan

If the Trinity Valley Community College Lady Cardinals’ first win in the NJCAA national tournament Tuesday seemed a little too close for comfort, it could be because the ladies have been making things look so easy the past month.

The Lady Cardinals fell behind by double digits early before coming back to beat Weatherford yesterday, 75-70, and the difference was one possession for much of the last minute of play. It wasn’t an easy win.

But this is for a national championship and wins aren’t going to come easy.

Head Coach Elena Lovato says her team is ready for the challenge.

“We know we didn’t play great in game one,” she told me in a Facebook conversation. “Let’s chalk that up to experience and move on to the next game. I know for a fact this crew is not satisfied with just being here.”

Lovato said the team also has a little extra motivation going for it.

“We want to leave a legacy in Athens because Athens has been so good to us,” she said.

The coach said local support is reaching the team all the way in Kansas.

“It is amazing how much love and support this group of girls and I feel,” she said. “We received a few text messages and tweets from fellow coaches, athletes, and people in the community who watched the game online together.”

TVCC fans also travel well and are a force themselves in Kansas.

“The atmosphere in that gym yesterday was great,” Lovato said. “We were blessed to have a large number of Lady Card diehards that made the trip to Salina this year. Also, its pretty awesome that we have an administration that supports our athletic department so much. The cheerleaders and band were amazing.”

Next up for the Lady Cards is Blinn 1 p.m. tomorrow. This will be the fourth time the two teams have played this season, with TVCC winning all three previous meetings.

“We are going to leave it on the floor each and every night not just for each other, the school, the tradition, but for the fans – the people who have invested so much interest, care and love for this program,” Lovato said.