By Rick Mauch
For the Weatherford College Lady Coyote basketball team, competing in the NJCAA Division I National Tournament recently was more than a chance at a national championship. It was also an opportunity to impress some potential future coaches.
“It’s just a great situation for the players, that’s what’s really important,” said Lady Coyotes coach Bob McKinley. “Being able to play in front of that many coaches is something special. Everybody who’s going to recruit junior college players was there.
“I think almost all of our sophomores are going to get a chance to play somewhere.”
The Lady Coyotes (25-6) won the North Texas Junior College Athletic Conference, finished second in Region V and were in the top 16 at nationals. WC will lose eight sophomores from their current roster. The list includes JohVonna Darrington (16 points, 9 rebounds, 2 steals, 1.6 blocks per game), Desiree King, Cleyder Blanco, (9.5 rebounds), Waleska Perez, Hailey Owens, Bathsheba McMahon, Raquel Dent, and Alexia Kelley (1.5 blocks). Helping their cause was winning the opening round at nationals in Salina, Kansas, 72-68 over Northeast Community College out of Norfolk, Neb. WC followed that by throwing a scare into eventual national champion Trinity Valley Community College (back-to-back) before losing 75-70.
“We were the only ones who played with Trinity Valley,” said McKinley.
The Lady Coyotes led at halftime against TVCC. They were down by three points with six seconds to play and were forced to foul, with the Lady Cardinals hitting a pair of free throws to pull away.
“It gives coaches an opportunity to see that you’re just as good as they were,” McKinley continued.
“I really feel the girls on this team were the best we’ve had in a long time. The overall feeling was one of team, and you can’t win like we did if you don’t have that.
“I think we were one of the four best teams [at the nationals].”
McKinley also praised the play of all four Texas teams, which included Blinn and Midland. All advanced to the round of 16. Blinn, in fact, reached the Elite Eight before losing to TVCC.
“I think all of the teams from Texas did great and represented us well,” he said. “I wish we weren’t all in the same bracket.”
McKinley said the focus has now shifted to next season and making a repeat appearance at nationals, something that hasn’t happened at the school since 1977-78.
The Lady Coyotes have made six national tournament appearances in their history, four with McKinley as coach.
“We were already focusing on next season before we even left,” he said. “This has definitely got to help with recruiting.”
The Lady Coyotes featured six freshmen on their roster. The list is led by Bre Brooks, who topped the conference in scoring (17 points per game) and assists (7.6), while being second in steals (2.6) on her way to winning NTJCAC Player of the Year honors. Also, Itiana Taylor (or I.T.) led the league in rebounds (10.7) and was fourth in scoring (14.4) while garnering first-team accolades.
“That is one heck of a duo to build around for next season,” said McKinley.
Other freshmen are Brooke Rice, Toma Zaleckaite, Kaylee Brooks, and Delaney Wolf.
With this season’s team, McKinley’s career record is 836-393. He also won his 10th NTJCAC Coach of the Year award.
“This was a special season,” he said. “Very special.”