Nieka Wheeler just couldn’t let go of the trophy.
“I think I really didn’t understand what we were playing for last year,” Wheeler said. “This year I understood how important it was to win.”
The women’s basketball squad defeated the Kansas City Kansas Community College Blue Devils in Wichita 70-51. Following the win, Wheeler was practically glued to the regional championship trophy. After experiencing heartbreak in the same place the previous two years, the Cavs were filled with jubilation knowing they will not only be going to nationals, but also knowing nationals will be right in their own backyard.
“I think it’s an advantage because we are going to be more comfortable and more familiar with our surroundings,” Wheeler said. “I think it’s going to take a lot of focus, just being tied in and committed to what we are trying to do to win this tournament.”
Despite the final score, the game was a battle through most of the contest. After a technical foul by the Devils that gave the Cavs a 42-40 lead, the floodgates opened. The Cavs dominated the last 10 minutes of the game and emerged with a historic win.
“We basically imploded in January in our first game against KCK,” Cavaliers head coach Ben Conrad said. “Our team has grown up and really improved, which we expect our teams to do.”
According to Conrad, even with the benefit of being at home, the squad will have plenty of obstacles to go through in the tournament.
“The urgency everyone will play with in that tournament will cancel out some of it,” Conrad said. “It definitely is nice to be in our own beds, in our normal routine. No matter what, we’ll have to play some very good basketball to be successful.”
Conrad said the Cavs will stick with the mentality they have had all year: Do things right and success will follow suit.
“Our focus will be like it always is, with process before product,” Conrad said. “We will prepare the right way, do things the right way, control what we can control. Then we’ll feel good about the result we get.”
The Cavaliers will look to achieve one of the most satisfying and rare things in sports: winning a national title on their own court.
“I like our team a great deal,” Conrad said. “They play with a unique swagger, and I wouldn’t want to play against our players right now.”
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