The Athens Review
SALINA, KAN. —
Three straight titles.
That was a feat that had never been done before in the history of NJCAA, Division I women’s basketball.
On Saturday, the No. 1-ranked team in the land and the No. 1 seed in the tournament, the Trinity Valley Community College Lady Cardinals (36-1) did just that by defeating the Hutchinson Blue Dragons, 65-46, in the title game at the Bicentennial Center in Salina, Kan.
“I thought they played really good defense in the first half,” Lovato said. “I thought they held us to like three points in the last 10 minutes and I think they figured out what we were trying to do and held us to jumpers.”
The contest — which was the fourth straight appearance in the title game and 11th appearance overall for the Lady Cards — was a rematch of the 2012 national title game.
The Lady Cardinals prevailed 69-55 in that game.
TVCC is now 8-3 in the previous 11 title games, winning titles in 1994, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2004, 2012, 2013 and 2014.
With their history making win, the No. 1-seeded Lady Cardinals knocked out the No. 3-seed and the nation's only undefeated team at 35-0 heading into the contest.
The Lady Cardinals, in their 19th national tournament, ran their record in the semifinals to 11-0 Friday night with an 82-63 win against Central Arizona. Hutchinson won its way to the title game, jumping out to a big lead and holding off Chipola for a 78-71 win.
The Lady Cardinals have now won 29 games and have won 108 of their last 110 games (108 of 109 on the court).
Head coach Elena Lovato was named the Coach of the Year, while Adut Bulgak, Deborah Meeks and Roddricka Patton were named to the all-tournament team. Bulgak was also named the tournament MVP.
The first 20 minutes was not the typical style of basketball for the Lady Cardinals as they held a slim, 27-15, lead heading into the locker room.
The defensive pressure by the Lady Cardinals was ferocious as Hutchinson went five-of-23 from the field for 21.7 percent shooting in the first half.
TVCC held a 22-9 lead with seven minutes remaining as Patton found LeeLee Grant for an old-fashioned three-point play.
Hutchinson was able to cut into the deficit and cut the lead to eight points over the next five minutes as Chelsea Dewey drove in for a layup followed by two free throws from Kalani Purcell for a 24-15 deficit.
Following a three-pointer from Meeks off of an assist from Coco Baker for the 27-15 lead at the half, Lovato said it was a quite locker room.
“We were a very quite locker room and I think they were locked in and ready to here what the adjustments were,” Lovato said. They were ready to come out and finish what they started.”
TVCC sophomore guard Shlonte’ Allen — who finished with four points, two rebounds, two assists and one steal — said the adrenaline was high in the first half.
“I think the first 20 minutes had us too anxious to be playing and we know we would come out and be worrying about defense,” Allen said. “I think we were worried about our defense because we knew our offense would come.”
Spears said the Lady Cards knew what needed to happen.
“We went in there and said that we were going to stay focused and know that the score was 0-0,” Spears said. “We knew the game would start over at that point and we could win the game.”
In the second half, the Lady Cardinals outscored Hutchinson, 38-31, to win the game by double figures.
“Some of us may have had some fear in us or were nervous at the half but we got in the locker room and said the first half was over with and the score was 0-0,” Patton said. “We needed to come out and pop them from the beginning and we did just that.”
For Patton, this title was her fifth straight title as she finished with one point, 11 assists and six steals in 36 minutes of play.
TVCC was led by Bulgak with 17 points, 13 rebounds, one steal and one block, while Meeks had 13 points on eight-of-12 shooting.
Trinity Valley ended the game shooting 25-of-56 from the field for 44.6 percent and five-of-17 from three point range.
The win over Hutchinson was the last game for Lady Cardinal sophomores Bulgak, Patton, Allen, Dominique Brooks, Julianne Anchling, Kyhonta Doughty, Meeks and Baker. Bulgak, Patton, Allen, Brooks, Anchling and Doughty are 72-2 (72-1 on the court) in their two years.
“It will be a heartbreaker for me losing all eight of them,” Lovato said. “I think that two-year stint was special and we are al ready working on our recruiting class and I am proud of that right now.”
All Tournament Team
Adut Bulgak (F) – Trinity Valley
Coach of the Tournament
Elena Lovato – Trinity Valley
Fatima Adams (F) – Blinn
Evelyn Akhator (F) — Chipola
Adut Bulgak (F) — Trinity Valley
Victoria Kemokai (G) — Tyler
Tiffany Lewis (G) — Chipola
Deborah Meeks (G) — Trinity Valley
Roddricka Patton (G) — Trinity Valley
Jamie Patrick (G) — Hutchinson
Kalani Purcell (F) — Hutchinson
Jamie Roe (G) — Central Arizona
Simone Westbrook (G) — Northwest Florida State
Te’era Williams (F) — Butler
Alberta Lee Cox Sportsmanship Award
Tyler Junior College Apaches