Now that it's been almost 2 weeks since our season ended, I finally feel like writing about the final games of our season. I've had so many people tell me since our final loss that once the hurt of losing wears off that we will look back on this season and be very proud of what we accomplished. I don't know that any of us will ever be able to erase the memories of losing the championship game from our minds but now I am beginning to realize just what an incredible season our girls put together this year. I have our post season media guide hanging just behind my computer on the wall and the more I look at the list of accolades on it, the more impressed I am by our girls. The accomplishments listed are: Back to Back 20 win seasons / Back to Back Big South Conference Championship Appearances / Preseason WNIT Berth / Four Big South Postseason Award Winners / Two Big South All-Tournament Team Honorees / Second Most Wins in School History / All Time Big South and Radford Individual Shot Block Records / School Record for Blocks in a Season / Preseason Big South Conference Favorite / Two 1000 Point Scorers / Ranked in Top 10 Nationally in Steals and Blocked Shots. The front of the postseason media guide highlights Johnette Walker for making All Big South 2nd team and Big South All Academic Team, Kelli Darden for being named Big South Defensive Player of the Year, First Team All Big South, and Big South All Tournament Team, and Taleia Moton for making the Big South All Rookie Team and also being named to the Big South All Tournament Team. If that list isn't enough for you, I feel like we had a few that were left off of the all conference list but that's an entirely different story. Anyway, my last post was the day before we left to go to Asheville for the conference tournament and we were all very excited about what the week held for us. The atmosphere around the hotel was really fun to be a part of. Every team stays at the Doubletree Hotel in Asheville and the hotel staff wears team jerseys and referee shirts. They really set it up nice for the teams and everybody there was excited about the tournament. Our girls were mostly excited about the free doubletree cookies and the snack room that was open all day everyday. On Thursday night after we had practice, we went to the tournament banquet at the Biltmore Country Club. I have to say that our team was the best dressed and best looking group there. How could they not be when they have the best looking coaching staff in the conference?!! It's always fun to see everyone dressed up and hear the announcement of the all conference teams. It's MORE fun to hear our girls crack jokes for the entire dinner about what other people are wearing, how short Kelli's skirt was, and how tough it was for Johnette to walk in her high heels. Once the banquet was over, the attention shifted to the real reason everyone was there: the games. We had to play UNCA in the first round in a rematch of last year's championship game and we knew they would throw everything they had at us. Asheville is always a tough team to beat in the Justice Center and they always play well in front of a big (and very loud) crowd. It took double overtime to beat them (50 minutes of basketball!) but we came out with a great win and looked forward to a 2nd round matchup with Winthrop. The Winthrop game was in my opinion one of our best defensive showings all season. The girls defended and rebounded like they finally understood what it was going to take to win a championship. I was so proud of them and everyone around us was excited about the championship game. I have to add that we had so much support cheering for us the whole weekend. Along with all of our families, President Kyle, Dr. Dore and her husband, Dr. Pomerantz, and Mr. Lineburg made the trip to Asheville to cheer us on. The dance team and the cheerleaders got them out of their seats and made us feel very loved. I don't think they realize what it meant to the girls to have all of that red in the stands helping us out. When our team walked out of the hotel to board the bus on Sunday morning, they had a tunnel of people led by the cheerleaders and dance team with signs and loud cheers. I thought it was a great moment for our team to experience.
As most of you reading this know, the championship game didn't turn out exactly as we would have liked. Losing any game on a buzzer beater is tough, but losing the way we did in a game that could've put us in the Big Dance was one of the toughest games I've ever been involved in. With just over 5 seconds remaining, we had a one point lead and the ball under Liberty's basket. We called a timeout to set up our press break and knew that Liberty had to foul us to stop the clock. It is my opinion (and the opinion of most everyone else sitting in that gym) that Taleia got tripped, pushed, fouled...whatever you want to call it as she broke to the ball. Kelli passed the ball into Taleia as she was hitting the floor and the official under the basket said that Taleia traveled. Taleia just didn't trip over her own two feet. In a matter on one possession, our entire mood shifted. Our bench was in a state of shock. Did he really just call that? The last play of the game is a blur for me. Frazee's shot fell through the net with 0.2 seconds on the clock and Liberty started to celebrate. I hurt so much for our kids. They wanted that game so bad and I think they deserved to win it. Leaving the gym that day, I had alot of people tell me that we got screwed, that we had a great year, and that we could still make some noise in the WNIT. I really didn't want to hear any of that. I wanted the officials to watch the tape and let the teams come back replay that last possession...put T on the free throw line...and let her ice the game. I wanted to be inside the gym cutting the nets down. I wanted to see Kelli and Vandy's victory dance that was going to make them famous on Sportscenter. I wanted our kids to get a championship more than I've ever wanted anything else. Like I said earlier, we won't ever forget that game, but I hope no one around here forgets this entire season. It was a great one.