Athens Review, Athens, Texas

March 13, 2014

NATIONAL TOURNAMENT MEDIA DAY: Good times in the Valley

Lady Cardinals looking to extend national title defense

Joe Elerson
The Athens Review

Athens — The No. 1-ranked team in the country in the Trinity Valley Community College Lady Cardinals come into the NJCAA national tournament with a target on their backs.

That is understandable when you see the resume they bring to the tournament.

TVCC is 32-1 on the season, the No. 1-seed in the national tournament, the two-time defending champions, have made it to the national tournament seven straight seasons, won seven national titles, have won 13 Region XIV conference titles and are currently on a 25-game winning streak.

They have also won 104-of-their-last 106 games — and 104-of-105 games on the court. They also have a chance to become the first program in NJCAA history to win the tournament three straight seasons.

“Everyone had told me that we don't lose here and I am glad that I can help my team this season,” sophomore Coco Baker said. “There is no pressure at all because it is like we have the X on our backs against whoever we play against. We have to come out hard and play together as a team.”

For Dominique “The Boss” Brooks, she said heading back to the tournament is big for the city of Athens and for everyone who attends the game.

“It is very important,” Brooks said. “It is for the community, the coaches and the fans and we are all putting an effort into winning the tournament.”

If the Lady Cards have a chance to finish out the season on a five-game winning streak, this would be the sixth straight title for Neches resident and sophomore point guard Roddricka Patton.

Patton won four straight Class A titles in high school and was a member of the 36-1 national championship team last season. In college, she is currently 68-2 in her career.

“It means a lot to me and without my teammates I would not have been able to do this,” Patton said. “All throughout high school and college, you would not be able to make it as far as you do without your teammates.”

With the Lady Cardinals heading into the tournament at 2 p.m. Tuesday against the winner of the Western Nebraska-State Fair contest on Monday, Kennedale freshman Autummn Williams said the team is peaking at the right time.

“I feel like we are a stronger team,” Williams said. “We have come together and are playing stronger than we ever have before.”

Coach Elena Lovato said this year's group has a chance to do something very special due to the four freshmen on the team.

“I think my freshmen have done a good job of sticking to the motto,” Lovato said. “When I recruited them we talked about leave a legacy and they have taken that personal. I think this group has a chance to play for a title and go for the three-peat.”

Patton said there is a possibility of facing the Chipola College Lady Indians — who gave the Lady Cardinals their only loss of the season — in the national title game.

“I think we would love to play them again and to let everyone know that we are better than that,” Patton said.

For Lovato, she said the Lady Cardinals need to stick to the game plan on Monday. She also said the coaching staff has tried not to tell them about the record-setting mark.

“I hope they are not looking past anyone that we play before that game,” Lovato said. “No, definitely not because we are trying to keep this low profile and take it one day at a time and get better in practices this week to prepare for the tournament."