Another year, another national championship.
For a casual observer of the Oklahoma City University women’s basketball program, that might be what it looks like.
On Tuesday night, OCU defeated Campbellsville (Ky.), 80-63, in Independence, Mo., to win the 2015 NAIA Women’s Basketball National Championship. The national title is the second straight and third in four years.
It is also the eighth overall for the program, pushing OCU past Southern Nazarene, who has seven, to a place alone of the top of the NAIA list.
But Stars’ head coach Latricia Trammell said there is a lot of work that gets a program to this point. And that she is appreciative of where she and the program are.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling, obviously, but I’m really so proud of these young ladies and what they have accomplished this season,” Trammell said. “Just to go out again on that high note, for these seniors definitely means a lot, and means a lot also to our program and to our university.”
Trammell, who has won two national championships in her three years at the helm, said credit for the win is to be spread throughout.
“I will say this: I don’t do it alone,” Trammell said. “I had three volunteer assistants that were all former players of mine in Autumn (Huffman) and Katie (Hall) and Candace (Varnedoe) and I appreciate them very much.
“But also, I had a very talented group of young women and not only were they talented, but they were hard workers. And so it’s good to have successful people around you to make you look good.”
The quest for the next championship began not long after last year’s win for Trammell and her staff as they were working to fit many new pieces into the right places.
“You know we had six new players and five returners off last season’s national championship team,” Trammell said. “And we did a lot of team bonding.
“We started our season going to Colorado for a team retreat, training in the altitude and coming together and getting to know each other. You’re just going through the grind and the adversities during the season. Those adversities bring you closer together. That’s definitely what we did.
“And these girls are now just one big family. They’re sisters to one another. And that’s something we talked about after the championship game.”
The Stars (30-2) finished the season with 12 straight wins, including taking the Sooner Athletic Conference tournament title. OCU defeated Oklahoma Baptist, 76-70, in the championship game.
And for Trammell, that was something new.
“Since I’ve been here, we had won regular season conference championships, but we hadn’t won the conference tournament championship. And so three championships, you can’t end on a better note – we won the regular season, the conference tournament and then the national tournament.
“And our conference prepares us for that. We have great teams in our conference and we appreciate them for making us better, in regard to preparing us for the bigger picture.
“And I’m just going to keep saying this, I’m extremely proud of our team and them embracing the challenges we had.”
The Stars dominated the national tournament, winning the last four games by an average of 23 points per game. But the trip through the bracket was nearly derailed in the opening contest.
OCU was taken to the wire against No. 8 seed Lewis-Clark State. Ouleymatou Coulibaly hit two free throws with 0.3 seconds on the clock to secure a 63-61 win.
“I think it was a good wake up call,” Trammell said. “We definitely came together and talked about that and re-evaluated our goals for the tournament and then they really got together and started dominating.”
Six seniors helped the Stars take home another championship. Trammell took the time to recognize them all.
“Yvonte Neal has been in our program for two seasons. Last year, she was Player of the Year and the conference Newcomer of the Year. And now, she’s the MVP in the national tournament.
“She has given our program so much. She’s such a talented young lady and definitely will be missed.
“Cetoria Petties, you know, last season, she played maybe a munite to two minutes. And this year she started for us at the point position. So she definitely embraced her role and came on strong at the end, as well.
“And then there’s Rateska Brown, who was an All-Ameican and this year’s Player of the Year in the conference Newcomer of the Year and dominated the entire season. She was the Sixth Man of the Year at Temple Univeristy last season. And she contributed and brought so much to our program.
“Ouleymatou Coulibaly has been with our program the past two seasons and basically averaged a double-double in the national tournament and throughout her career here.
“And for someone, who just three years ago stepped on a junior college campus and could not speak English, to where she is now as one of our best academic students – I have much amount of respect for her to leave her family back in Africa to come and get a college degree.
“Janay Borum is a one-year young lady who transferred from Clayton State and came off the bench for us but played probably 30 minutes a game.
“She’s quick as lightning and in this national tournament really stepped up and created for us when teams tried to press us. She’s just one big spark of energy and she’s absolutely amazing.
“And then we have Marisha Wallace, a Big 12 Newcomer of the Year from Oklahoma State, that came to us this season. (In the championship), she was just a beast!
“She really helped with our other 6-foot-3 starter. Both our post players – I just didn’t see any other post players in the national tournament at that caliber. And so, just to have her this one year has been a true blessing.”
“For all them, they brought leadership. They’re going to be hard to replace. They’re good kids.”