NATIONAL CHAMPS: NWF State women defeat Trinity Valley, cut down NJCAA tourney nets
LUBBOCK — Fort the second straight year, Bart Walker and Co. have ended the season with a win.
Only this time no pandemic — nor peer — could keep the Raiders from cutting down the NJCAA national tournament nets.
Yep, four years after being re-hired to helm the women's program, Walker has led the fifth-seeded Raiders to the mountain top after a 67-60 win over second-seeded Trinity Valley Saturday in Lubbock.
How big was this championship run? It’s the first national title for the Raiders, who last year garnered the No. 3 seed before COVID-19 shut everything down.
This year, nothing could stop them.
Tied late, Last-Tear Poa hit a pair of free throws to give the Raiders a 62-60 cushion. On the ensuing possession, the Raiders forced a turnover and Chanaya Pinto capitalized with a 3-pointer for a two-possession lead with 24 seconds left.
Soon after another forced turnover by the Raiders sealed the transformative win, a fitting end for the nation’s most lauded and suffocating defense.
Pinto ended the night with a 17-point, 10-rebound double-double and Poa had a game-high 20 points for the Raiders, who are a far cry from the last-place program Walker inherited four years ago.
When Walker was hired in 2017, athletic director Ramsey Ross trumpeted, "He's been successful wherever he's been."
Meanwhile Walker promised a "winning culture” after the Raiders won just one Panhandle game that year and missed the Region VIII and national tournaments.
"That's our goal, to compete for a conference championship, compete for a state title and then if you do that obviously you're on the path for contending at the national tournament," he said then. "It's a process and we understand it's a process."
The process is complete.
Get ready to raise the banner, order the rings, find a resting place for that national tournament net and hardware and celebrate a victory parade that's been a long timing — decades in the making.
Adding to their legacy, the Raiders finish the season 24-2 after going 15-1 in the Panhandle Conference and outscoring foes 71-50 on the season.
No defense in the country touched NWF State's pick-pocket, opportune sensibilities.
No offense was able to replicated the Raiders’ efficiency.
Simply put, the Raiders were in a class of their own. So what's the next step?
How about putting together a dynasty, Bart?