Lady Vikings overcome odds

The Ricks College Lady Vikings basketball team placed third in the National Junior College Athletic Association Tournament at Tyler, Texas, March 16-20.

The Vikings, Region 18 champions, played four games in five days against the top-ranked teams in the country, winning three of the four. And they did so coming into the 16-team tournament unranked and not expected to make it very far.Since the inception of the national tournament for women's junior college basketball in 1975, a Region 18 team had never won a first-round game. And even though the Lady Vikings carried a record of 26-3 into the tournament and had been nationally ranked most of the year, they weren't predicted to make a very high finish.

But the Vikings had a dream, said Coach Lori Woodland. Their dream was to represent Ricks College well, play hard enough to win, and have fun.

And win they did. In the opening round, they met fourth-ranked Copiah-Lincoln Community College from Wesson, Miss., and handed that team a 65-60 loss. Copiah-Lincoln had a 32-0 record and had been picked by many as the team to beat.

In the second game, Ricks faced off with John A. Logan College of Herrin, Ill., which boasted a 30-4 record and a 13th national ranking. In a thrilling come-from-behind finish, the Vikings took a 97-94 win, which sent them into the final four.

Vikings talents Teresa Gemar and Melinda Gee made key plays to ice the win for Ricks. With her team trailing 94-92, Teresa nailed a three-point bucket with 14 seconds left, giving the Vikings a 95-94 lead. Then, as opponents worked the ball up the court, Melinda stole it and was fouled with five seconds left. She hit both free throws to seal the win.

The Vikings' final two games were against teams tied for seventh in the national polls. In the semi-final game, Ricks College played Louisburg College's Hurricanes of North Carolina, the defending 1992 national champions who had a 27-2 record coming into the 1993 tournament. The Hurricanes won 85-81, led by last year's tournament MVP Valerie Wages.

On the tournament's final day, the Vikings faced Independence Community College from Kansas, featuring the "Twin Towers," players who are 6 feet 7 inches and 6 feet 6 inches, respectively. But the Lady Vikings out-rebounded their opponents 28-25 and triumphed with a 70-67 win.

"I think the key to our success at the tournament was our team play," said Coach Woodland. "Our starters were just unbelievable and our bench was tough. Jennifer Wilburn, Camille Woodbury, Melinda Gee, Teresa Gemar and Ann Esplin had tremendous games. Janel Hanson, Brooke Kerbs, Amber Little, Julianna Tanner, Tiffany Wise, Jenny McInnes and Kristan Johnson all did a tremendous job. It was definitely a total team effort. It was our dream come true."

Teresa and Jennifer were selected to the national all-tournament team. They averaged 16 and 17 points a game, respectively.

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