By GARY STALLARD
LUBBOCK – The Angelina College Lady Roadrunners haven’t played an actual game since winning the Region XIV Conference Tournament championship back on March 9.
On Tuesday, the team spent the afternoon conducting a final walk-through before tipping off their national championship tournament debut scheduled for Wednesday.
AC’s ladies arrived in Lubbock on Saturday, giving them time to pick up some hard-earned rest while getting a look at the Rip Griffen Center on the Lubbock Christian University campus. Monday’s shoot-around was more for familiarization. Tuesday, at South Plains College in Levelland, the team focused on Wednesday’s opponent: Hutchinson College, which blew past Western Nebraska 81-60 in Monday’s opening round. Head coach Byron Coleman, assistant coach Randy McKelvey and the Lady Roadrunners attended that game and spent Monday evening going over what they’d seen.
Tuesday also offered a little time for reflection. Coleman, standing on the South Plains gymnasium floor, recalled this team’s historic run – and how a tail-whipping in a scrimmage helped put the Lady Roadrunners on their current path.
“We kind of got off to a slow start,” Coleman said. “First of all, we had low roster numbers. We only had 10 healthy bodies early in the year, so it was tough for us to do a lot of team work. We were a little behind, so we took a slower route with this group. We had to watch for injuries and our overall health, so when we went to some scrimmages, we kind of got our tails handed to us against a very good New Mexico team early.
“But it showed us what we needed to work on. We were able to get those things fixed, and I was very pleased about where we went from there. There were 100-something coaches watching us against New Mexico, and that team was thrashing us. But it really got us ready and aimed toward where we needed to go.”
With those low numbers in mind, Coleman – who on Monday was named the NJCAA District L Coach of the Year – pulled a card from legendary Tennessee coach Pat Summit’s deck. He recruited the Roadrunner men’s team for scrimmages in an effort to help his own squad develop into a quicker and stronger unit.
“We’ve always gotten help from the men’s team, but it was more sporadic,” Coleman said. “We might have them one week and not again for two or three weeks.
“But again, with our low numbers, we didn’t always have enough to hold our own 5-on-5 scrimmages. There were some days we only had 10 players, and on one day, one of our girls got hurt right at the beginning of practice. We brought the guys over steadily for two days every week for the majority of the year, and they really got after us. We told them, ‘Don’t hold back.’ They prepared us for our conference, and there’s no doubt those guys got us where we are today. We wouldn’t be here without them.”
Despite compiling a 29-3 record – by far the best season for a women’s team in AC history – Coleman and his crew know records mean nothing in a tournament of this magnitude. He said the approach to Wednesday’s action isn’t about changing much this late in the season. Rather, it’s more about adjusting and forcing the opponent to stop the Lady Roadrunners’ formidable attack.
“Both teams have to adjust to each other,” Coleman said. “I don’t think they’ve seen our level of athleticism in a while, and we haven’t seen a lot of the type of structure they have. What you try to do is minimize some of the things they do well, and they’ll be doing the same thing. We want them to try and stop us. We’re going to run our style and force them to shut down our post players and outside shooters at the same time.
“Mostly, our girls are just ready to play again. It’s been a while.”
The Lady ‘Runners will tip off at 2 p.m. Wednesday in Lubbock. The game will be live streamed at njcaatv.com.
The e-mail address for AC’s Sports Information Director is firstname.lastname@example.org.