Billingham ends Judson career in dramatic fashion
Mike Self, Franklin County Times
As the lone senior on the Judson College basketball team this past season, Anna Billingham often wondered if her young team had what it took to earn a third straight berth in the National Championship Tournament of the United States Collegiate Athletic Association.
"There were times when I had my doubts," said Billingham, a former Belgreen star who helped the Lady Bulldogs win a state championship in 2002. "It was definitely a little frustrating. This was kind of a rebuilding year, and that's hard to handle when you've been here for a while.
"We got off to a rough start, but then we seemed to wake up after Christmas and start playing better. We really came together as a team. We still weren't winning a whole lot of games, but we were playing close games against some really tough competition."
That tough schedule ultimately paid off for the Lady Eagles in the form of a surprise invitation.
"When the regular season ended, I thought we were done," Billingham said. "I was already moving on to softball. We were on a softball trip when we got a phone call telling us we had made the national tournament. It was really exciting."
Judson (a women's college located in Marion, AL) headed to Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, where the USCAA National Championship Tournament was held at Rhema Bible College on March 6-10.
In their first game, the Lady Eagles found themselves trailing Lyndon State College (VT) by a point with less than 10 seconds left.
"We fouled one of their players, and then we called timeout," Billingham said. "In the huddle, our coach told us to get the ball up the floor as fast as possible and try to get a good shot. Then we were just praying that she would miss her free throws. That's pretty much all that was said."
The Lyndon player did, in fact, miss the front end of her one-and-one, and junior Mia Allison grabbed the rebound for Judson. Allison got the ball to Billingham, who drove the length of the floor and made a layup with less than two seconds remaining to give the Lady Eagles a thrilling 61-60 win.
"We had been involved in so many games this year that came down to a last-second shot, and I think that helped," said Billingham, who finished with a game-high 25 points and 20 rebounds. "I really wasn't nervous at all. I knew what I had to do.
"That was definitely my best game of the season."
Judson lost to Southern Virginia and Robert Morris in its next two games and finished the season ranked No. 7 in the nation.
"I had fun this year," Billingham said. "It was frustrating at first, but it definitely got better toward the end."
Billingham will graduate in June with a double major in religion and psychology, and she plans to pursue a career working with children from broken homes.
"I would love to work with a children's ministry at a church or something, or maybe at an orphanage," she said. "It's hard to believe I'm just a few weeks away from being finished with college. Some years go by faster than others, but this last one has definitely flown by. It seems like just yesterday I was at Belgreen."