Weeks ago Utah Valley women’s basketball team went into the Great West Conference tournament as the sixth seed, the underdog, and came out on top as the champion.
No it wasn’t a dream you had – it really did happen. After a rough season with a team consisting of six returning players and six freshmen, you may ask how they pulled it off?
“We just peaked at the right time,” said coach Cathy Nixon. “The girls kept working hard all year in practice and we continued to improve. In the tournament they refused to lose. The cohesiveness of their effort and focus combined with their intensity on the court carried us to the championship.”
The lady Wolverines started the tournament in a game against No. 3 seed Chicago State, a team they had already faced twice this season in two losses. Senior Asumi Nakayama scored a career-high 26 points and sophomore Jenna Johnson put in 21 points to lead the team in scoring and secure them the win.
Winning game one put them into the semi-finals against the No. 2 seed Texas-Pan American. They had also faced the lady Broncs twice during the season, taking a loss each time.
Utah Valley came back from the 10-point lead UTPA had on them going into the half. The Wolverines scored 51 points in the second 20 minutes, giving them the 72-56 victory and sending the lady Broncs home and Utah Valley into the championship game.
“We knew we would have to play well to beat North Dakota, but I think the girls felt confident. We had a good game plan and focused on defending their strengths and rebounding. Those two factors won us the game,” said Nixon.
It was the same story going into the championship game against No. 1 seeded North Dakota, after taking two losses to them during the season. Utah Valley used its late success to push them to the top winning the championship game 70-62.
“This team just loves each other. They talked about wanting to play together as long as possible. We felt we had unfinished business and that we had not reached our potential,” said Nixon. “The girls wanted to prove that we were a team that could be competitive in the Great West.”