The TJC women’s basketball team went from having a season to forget in 2013 to having one to remember in 2014.
The Apache Ladies won only 11 games in 2013 but were determined to turn things around in 2014.
They did just that, winning 30 games, advancing to the national tournament and eventually finishing as one of the final eight teams in the nation playing.
“We had a sensational run this season,” TJC Head Women’s Basketball Coach Trenia Tillis-Jones said. “A 30-win season is huge. Not many coaches can boast this, and coming from only winning 11 games last year, what a great turn around.”
The team won 15 of its first 16 games before dropping back-to-back contests to Region XIV rivals Blinn and Trinity Valley on Jan. 15 and 18.
Their only other regular-season loss came against Trinity Valley in the team’s regular-season rematch. They avenged the loss to Blinn when the two teams played at Wagstaff Gymnasium.
“We had to bounce back because when we first played (Blinn), we weren’t really there,” sophomore guard Shernise Robertson said. “When we played them the second time, we were ready. We put it all out there.”
The team went into the Region XIV tournament March 5-8 as the No. 2 seed. They defeated Kilgore in the quarterfinals and Blinn in the semifinals before squaring off against Trinity Valley in the championship game.
For the third time during the season, however, TVCC was too much for the Apache Ladies, winning 72-62. However, by advancing to the championship game, TJC qualified for the national tournament.
“The national tournament was all lights on us and we finally get to show the world what we could do,” sophomore forward Bria Emanuel said. “It was very exciting.”
The team took the No. 11 seed into the national tournament and faced Southwestern Illinois on March 18. The Apache Ladies didn’t look like a team that had won 11 games the previous season or one that hadn’t made the national tournament since 2007 when they opened the tourney with a 74-52 victory.
In the second round, the Apache Ladies showed off the offense that was one of the best in the nation, defeating Southern Idaho 102-81. It was the 11th time during the season that the team scored more than 100 points.
“People probably underestimated us in our first game because in our first game, we started out really, really slow,” Robertson said. “But in that second game, those are the Apaches I know.
“We came out on fire. We made our statement in that game.”
In the quarterfinals, TJC jumped out to a 19-4 lead against undefeated Hutchinson Community College, before eventually losing 87-77. The Lady Apaches held the lead until late in the second half.
The team has a foundation to build on. Eight members of the team are freshmen and will return to continue what this team’s season accomplished.
“Next year, we are going to get better, work hard,” said freshman guard Victoria Kemokai “We just have to play hard and not take any team lightly.
“We will be at the national tournament next year and we will win it.”
Tillis-Jones finalist for Summitt award
The Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) announced on March 19 that TJC Women’s Basketball Coach Trenia Tillis-Jones is one of three finalists for the inaugural Pat Summitt Trophy to be presented to the 2014 Russell Athletic/WBCA Junior College National Coach of the Year.
The other finalists are Valerie Stambersky from Kansas City Community College and Ned Mircetic of Ventura College.
The 2014 Russell Athletic/WBCA Junior/Community College National Coach of the Year will be announced during the fourth annual WBCA Awards Show on Monday, April 7, in the Omni Nashville Hotel’s Broadway Ballroom.
This event is part of the WBCA National Convention and is held in conjunction with the NCAA Women’s Final Four in Nashville
“The WBCA congratulates these coaches on being named finalists for the Pat Summitt Trophy presented to the 2014 Russell Athletic/WBCA Junior/Community College National Coach of the Year,” said WBCA CEO Beth Bass in a press release.
“Each coach helped lead their team to an outstanding season and was selected by their peers to be candidates for this honor. On behalf of the WBCA and its members, I wish all of these finalists the best of luck at the WBCA Awards show in Nashville.”
This is the first year the physical award presented to the six Russell Athletic/WBCA National Coaches of the Year has borne Summitt’s name.