By losing three of their last four games, some might claim that the St. Catharine College women’s basketball team “backed-in” to the NAIA National Tournament. But for those close to the Patriots’ program, nothing could be further from the truth.
Justice actually prevailed in awarding Lena Bramblett’s team a berth in the big show that begins at the Frankfort Convention Center March 12th. The Patriots ended the regular season at 19-10 but that record is a testament to the tough schedule, and the rigorous Mid-South Conference in which they play. Nine of those ten losses were to conference opponents and the other was to Olivet Nazarene who at the time was receiving votes for the top 25.
And the St. Catharine victories were impressive. Eight of the 19 wins came against teams that were nationally ranked at the time. One of those wins came at Cumberland (Tenn.) when the Bulldogs were seventh in the nation. Cumberland finished as regular season champion and also was the winner of the Mid-South Conference tournament. They will enter the national tournament at 29-2.
“We did a lot of our work early,” said Bramblett of her team’s success in the first half of the season. “We beat some good teams and of the ten losses we had only two (to conference opponent Bluefield College) were to teams not nationally ranked.”
The Patriots celebrated Wednesday night while watching the video stream of the National Tournament selection show. It was then they found out that they would be a seven seed and will play Westminster (Utah) in the first game of the 32 team tournament. The Griffins, a member of the frontier Conference will bring a 27-3 record into the game that will be played at 12:30 on Thursday, March 14th.
While Bramblett felt her team definitely deserved a spot in the tournament, she doesn’t feel that her players will take an attitude of “just happy to be there” when they hit the court. “After playing the tough schedule that we have, we feel that we can compete against any team in the nation,” added Bramblett who is in her 10th season at the helm of the St. Catharine program. “I guarantee that whoever draws us will not want to play us.”
The National Tournament appearance is even more gratifying after missing out last year when it appeared that the Patriots had a good chance of getting in. And also a vindication of what Bramblett knew about this team before the season even began.
“From the beginning there was something special about this team,” said the Patriots’ mentor. “They are good people and good to each other and they are very good basketball players. But as good as they are as players, they are even better people.”
For the complete National Tournament bracket and ticket information log on to www.naia.org. For information on watching the video stream of each game log on to http://www.naia.org/ViewArticle.dbml?&&&DB_LANG=C&DB_OEM_ID=27900&&ATCLID=205423235