ECCC may not have won it all, but it wasn't for lack of heart
March 26, 2001
Thought for the day: They say you shouldn't criticize someone until you've walked a mile in their shoes. After riding 2,122 miles with them on their bus, I ain't criticizing the East Central Community College Lady Warriors.
It would have been great if the Lady Warriors from ECCC had won the NJCAA Women's National Basketball Championship last week, but it didn't happen.
In fact, the Lady Warriors went 0-2. They were eliminated by Central Arizona College with a 102-61 whipping. But you'd have to have been there to see how hard they fought against great odds before simply running out of gas.
Central Arizona holds the record for most NJCAA national tournament appearances and wins. The Vaqueras had a roster with seven players ranging from 6-foot up to 6-foot-5. ECCC had only one player over 6-foot.
Only four of CAC's 11 players were from Arizona, while nine of ECCC's 11 were from its five-county district.
Of Western Nebraska's 10 players, none were from Nebraska. Five, in fact, were from other countries.
ECCC's Margo Porter went down midway through the first half against CAC with a knee injury. She's OK now, but couldn't get the knee to loosen up in the early-morning game. Nicole Cox and Nikki Lacour had to go out to get bleeding cuts patched up. And Sophia Reed turned an ankle prior to Porter's injury.
Pace's team was in a world of hurt … literally.
Yet the Lady Warriors battled with all they had and were knotted 41-41 at halftime with the second-seeded Vaqueras.
Nothing could stop the onslaught in the second half… especially not CAC coach Lin Laursen, who coached her team to 13 wins of 30 points or more during the regular season.
(She should have given her starters a needed rest as CAC lost 65-58 to Louisburg (N.C.) College the next day, but that's her business and she can explain it to the folks in Coolidge, Ariz.).
The Lady Warriors did put on a dandy showing in their first-round 74-73 loss to local favorite Cloud County (Kan.) Community College.
Cloud scored with just over five seconds left for the win.
Cloud, by the way, went on to win the tournament by beating Cincinnati (Ohio) State 58-39, Tallahassee (Fla.) Community College 105-96 in overtime, and top-seeded Midland (Texas) College 71-56 in Saturday night's championship game.
A play here, a free throw there and who knows… it might have been ECCC in the finals. We'll never know.
Old school T-Birds
Cloud won the tournament with a solid team that was well-schooled in the fundamentals. The tallest player for the Thunderbirds was a 6-foot sub.
But Brett Erkenbrack's team did know how to block out on rebounds, protect the basketball, and could it ever shoot free throws. In four games, the team shot 102 freebies and made 84. That's a sizzling 82.4 percent.
Miklannet Tennal, a stocky 5-foot-3 guard, was deadly at the charity stripe, making 36 of 38 tries for a wicked 94.7 percent.
She went on to earn tournament MVP honors after averaging 24.8 points, 2.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 4.0 steals.
If you care to see an example of Cloud, watch Southwest Missouri State in the women's NCAA Tournament.
Jackie Stiles, the NCAA all-time scoring leader who plays for SMS, is from Kansas by the way.
No threats to Mo
We ran into several people with Mississippi ties at the tournament. I mentioned to a couple that ECCC freshman Lori Cumberland of Leake Academy played on a 46-0 team her junior year and that a Mississippi girl (Monique Horner) had just finished her high school career with 4,853 career points. (You gotta brag when you can.)
Seems Kansas high school teams can only play 16 games plus two tournaments during the regular season.
Another man from Oklahoma said his state limited teams to 20 games plus two tournaments.
Mo won't be getting any threats from those two states.
Doing us all proud
So ECCC left Salina with an 0-2 record (as did Meridian Community College the year before), but the Lady Warriors did ECCC and Mississippi proud on their trip.
Every restaurant or ice cream parlor we went to had someone come up and tell us what a good group they were, as did the gift shop at the hotel, as did the other people at the hotel, as did the folks at the Bicentennial Center where the games were played.
In fact, the clerk at the Holiday Inn said they request the Mississippi team every year because the young ladies from here are always well-behaved.
ECCC and MCC (1999 and 2000) folks can both take pride in that.
Marty Stamper is a sports writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at email@example.com.