A national title is Langston’s ultimate goal

Langston exited the Red River Athletic Conference tournament more quickly than expected last week.  But the conference tournament championship is not the ultimate goal for this team.

The Lionesses are a No. 3 seed in the NAIA Division I Women’s National Championship, which got underway this morning in Frankfort, Ky.  Langston will play No. 6 seed Columbia (Mo.) in its first round game on Thursday at 4:30 p.m.

Langston was tripped up by Our Lady of the Lake University, 88-80, in the semifinals of the RRAC tournament last weekend.  OLLU went on to win the tournament and secure the league’s automatic bid.

But Langston was already assured at least an at-large bid by virtue of winning the regular season championship.  And head coach Jerome Willis said that might have played a part in the loss.

“We didn’t play like it could be our last game,” Willis said.  “They did.  They played with more intensity.

“But that’s not to take away from what they did.  They beat us.”

And Langston is taking it as jump a bump in the road along a path that hopefully leads to the title this team has been pushing for all season.

“We haven’t lost any confidence,” Willis said.  “We still believe that we can win the national championship.  It was just one of those nights.

“We came back home that night and let it go.  And once we had an idea of what team we might play, we started getting ready for those teams.

“We haven’t done much different in practice, besides shooting a bunch of free throws.  That’s really what cost us the other night.”

Langston missed 16 free throws in the eight-point loss to OLLU.

ON TO FRANKFORT

The Lionesses will meet the Columbia Lady Cougars (24-9) on Thursday afternoon.  Columbia received an at-large bid, after falling 72-67 to Williams Woods in the American Midwest Conference tournament.

The Lady Cougars are seventh in the country in overall scoring (72.6 ppg) and made three-pointers (7.3 per contest).

Willis said that his team should match up well defensively, though.

“We’ve been one of the best defensive teams in the country all year,” Willis said.  “We’re bigger on the inside, but they’re a little longer on the wings.

“We want to keep them out of the lane and limit their second chances.  We should be able to dominate their end of the floor and keep them below 60.”

And the number 60 has been a focal point all season.

“It’s hard to keep us from scoring 60 points,” Willis said.  “We’ve been saying that all year that if we can keep a team from scoring that, no matter what kind of night our offense has, we can get 60.

“If the other team doesn’t score 60, it’s going to be tough to beat us.”

GOOD DRAW, GOOD TIMES

With 32 games to be played in two days, some games have to get started as early as 8:30 a.m., which is pretty early to get kids’ ready to play an important basketball game.  The 4:30 p.m. scheduled tipoff time is the earliest the Lionesses will have to take the court throughout the tournament, all the way through the championship game.  Willis said that this is fortunate for his team as well.

“We’ve definitely been blessed with the ideal game times,” Willis said.  “You know, it’s out there for us to win.  We don’t have any excuses.

“We can watch some games before we play and we can get a feel for the arena.  We feel like we’ve been put in a pretty good position.”

Willis seemed to be pleased with the situation as a whole.

“We’ve gotten a good draw and have a good seed and I like the game time, too,” Willis said.

“And this is it. All these girls have wanted to all year is win a national championship.  That’s the goal and we’ve put ourselves in a good situation to try to make that happen.”

Langston and Columbia will meet in the 29th of 32 first round games over the next two days.  If the Lionesses keep winning, it will mean five games in five days.

And that’s just the way they want it.