Athens Review, Athens, Texas

March 26, 2013


Lady Cards defeat Central Arizona 83-71 to defend its national title

Joe Elerson
The Athens Review

SALINA, Kan. — The No. 1 ranked Trinity Valley Community College Lady Cardinals capped out their chasing seven campaign with a national title 83-71 over the Central Arizona Vaqueras Saturday night at the Bicentennial Center.

The win capped off a 36-1 season, with their only loss coming on a forfeit against Weatherford in December.

First year coach Elena Lovato was speechless following their win on Kurt Budke court, the former head coach for the TVCC Lady Cardinals.

“I honestly am speechless,” Lovato said. “I thought all along that I had the group of kids that could get it done but I knew that it was almost like a Godsend and a plan that he wanted me back in Athens. I felt like he wanted me to be with the community and with the college. At that point, I think I was led to the right kids and it is like a big puzzle when you are out recruiting trying to find the right pieces and the puzzle just fit from the coaching staff to the players and the managers to trainers. It is amazing to be around people that you truly genuinely care about.”

This was the seventh title in 10 trips for the Lady Cards but the road was not easy in the title game.

During the first half, the Lady Cardinals jumped out to nine point leads but using their feisty defensive pressure to frustrate Central Arizona.

During a three minute stretch, TVCC got baskets from Savannah Carter, a 3-pointer from Adut Bulgak, a steal and layup from Shlonte Allen and a free throw from Roddricka Patton for the 19-10 lead with 11:30 remaining in the first half of play.

The tournament win was the fifth straight year Patton has made a high school or national title game in her short career.

“Nobody was going to stop us tonight,” Patton said after cutting down the net. “This just feels amazing right now winning the title. It was also amazing to finish the season with the record that we had. I am definitely speechless right now.”

The Lady Cards received another solid game from tournament MVP Shannon Smith — as she was determined to finish her junior college career with a national title.

The sophomore guard led the Cardinals in scoring in three of their four games. Smith shot 52.8 percent from the field and averaged 22 points per game during the tournament.

She finished her career with 14 points, four rebounds, five assists and two steals.

“It is awesome and I could not do it without my teammates,” Smith said following the win. “I love those girls and I wish I could take all of them to Michigan with me. Very special and I swear to God that I wish I could take them with me. I am glad that we were able to get the national championship.”

The Lady Cards looked to be in the driver’s seat heading into the locker room as Smith drained a jumper from just inside the 3-point line to give them a 46-33 lead.

Lovato said the coaches knew Central Arizona would not go home without a fight.

“We wanted 20 more minutes and the score was 0-0 at the half,” Lovato said. “We wanted to come out there and have the same fire and defensive pressure that we exerted in the first half. Central Arizona was not going to go home and that is a good group of kids.”

In the second half, the Vaqueras outscored TVCC, 38-37, and cut the lead to four points at, 65-61, on an old-fashioned three point play from Joymesia Howard with 9:18 remaining.

“It is a game of runs and coach is always telling us that,” Smith said. “We already knew that if we were to get down we could pick each other back up and could out and win.”

TVCC was able to outscore Central Arizona, 18-10, the remainder of the game after the basket by Howard.

With 3:44 remaining, the Lady Cardinals put the nail in the coffin as Patton found Carter wide open for the layup as time was running out on the shot clock for the, 77-65, lead.

Lovato said winning back-to-back titles with a new team was definitely worth it this season.

“It is an amazing blessing. They say this is Cardinal Gym North,” Lovato said with a laugh. “We have an amazing crowd with the fans and cheerleaders and it is definitely a great tradition and following with a lot of passion here being Kurt Budke’s court. We stopped and shot around at Oklahoma State to try and get that spiritual vibe rolling for us and I am excited and speechless.”

Trinity Valley was led in scoring by Allen with 22 points, while teammates Henderson scored 14 and Bulgak had a near double double with 10 points and six rebounds.