Shot heard across campus

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By James Howey

Photo by Mike Abell
Photo by Mike Abell

 

jhowey@jccc.edu

 
The game was tied and the clock winding down.

Alexis Brown had the ball and the dreams of a team in her hands. Brown stepped back and put up a shot that will forever live in the pantheon of the athletic history of the college. Brown made the shot, and the Cavaliers won the women’s NJCAA national championship in true Hollywood style, on their home court.

“Lexi’s Legacy” is what longtime team sup­porter Brody Fuentes nicknamed the shot. Immediately after the thrilling ending to the game, the Cavs’ massive student section erupt­ed and stormed the court in utter bedlam.

“I actually wasn’t thinking anything,” Brown said. “I was just too happy to even think.”

For Brown, this triumph goes beyond just basketball. Brown lost her father at a very young age, and since then has always been motivated by him to do her best.

“This means everything to me,” Brown said. “I basically did it for my daddy, my momma and my little brother.”

Cavaliers head coach Ben Conrad had tremendous confidence in Brown having the ball with everything on the line.

“It was an impressive shot, and she’s a special player,” Conrad said. “The biggest thing with her is that she’s afraid of nothing, and she likes the big stage”

Prior to the tournament, Brown did suffer a shoulder injury and just wasn’t herself of­fensively for most of the tournament.

“She really struggled throughout the tour­nament,” Conrad said. “I just kept thinking she’d have a great night.”

Nieka Wheeler was a part of a team last year that could have easily been in the same position, and knows that in a way this cham­pionship was bigger than just this team this season.

“I felt like this team was the one that could do it for all the other teams that didn’t make it, and for Conrad,” Wheeler said.

The Cavs have maintained the mentality of one game at a time this whole season, but even Wheeler admitted that they knew what their goal was all along.

“I always thought it would be awesome to get that ring and be part of a team to win a national title,” Wheeler said. “We played it game by game, but in everyone’s mind we were thinking we could get to the national championship and be the team to win it.”

After the Cavs’ win over KCK in region­als to the advance to national tournament, Wheeler saw that this team was capable to do great things and use everything their coach had instilled in them during the season.

“I felt like after the regional championship that we could do anything,” Wheeler said. “Conrad trained us, coached us into being the best team we could be, and I knew we could be the best.”

Not only was the championship a classic, but most of the tournament games went down to the final min­utes. This tournament featured one of the most stacked in recent memory.

“This tournament field was as good a [Division II] field I’ve seen in all the years we’ve been coming here, and when I was recruiting here at a four-year school,” Conrad said.

The Cavaliers also had three play­ers who were voted onto the all-tour­nament team. Wheeler, Erica Nelson and Brown were the three Cavs to receive that honor. Wheeler averaged 19.5 points and eight rebounds in the tournament and was voted tourna­ment MVP. Conrad won his first-ever national title, his 300th career game and was named coach of the tourna­ment. Sophomores Wheeler, Kelsey Barret and Braile Fields are the win­ningest sophomore class at the college with 64 wins the past two years. Even with the monumental win, Conrad always knew, win or lose, the process is always the most important thing for this program.

“I’ve always told our players to not get too hung up on the way it ends and whether we won or lost this game. How we approach things every day is what really matters,” Conrad said. “That being said, getting over this hump, winning a national champion­ship is pretty special, and it means a lot to the program.”
For post game interviews with players Nieka Wheeler, Alexis Brown and coach Ben Conrad click this link >>>

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