The Miles Community College women’s basketball team will arrive at the NJCAA Division I women's basketball championship in Lubbock, Texas late Friday night. This is Miles City's second trip to the national tournament in three years.
The Pioneers left Thursday and stayed in Denver before making the rest of the trek. With the championship scheduled for April 24, MCC is planning on an extended stay.
“We told the girls we’re going to be gone almost two weeks. Kate Tanner asked me, ‘Can I pack a suitcase?’ I said, ‘Yep, pack a suitcase. We’re going to be gone for a while,'" MCC head coach Taylor Harris said. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a lot of these girls. This one team that we have, we won’t be together again. That’s the beauty of junior college. People leave, people come. We really want to cherish these last moments that we have together.”
The Pioneers open up with Gulf Coast State College on Monday afternoon. MCC may have the nation’s No. 1 JUCO scorer in Rebekah Dallinger at 25.3 points per game, but Gulf Coast State’s Nia Daniel ranks third in the country at 22.8 points per game.
The Pioneers could be in for a shock in the game's opening minutes, as Gulf Coast State's style of play will be a bit unfamiliar to MCC. The Commodores won the most recently contested NJCAA Division I title in 2019.
“(Daniel) is their big focus, so she’s going to be our main focus when we’re defending. Always knowing where she is at all times. The biggest thing for us is when a shot goes up, we have to rebound. They’re really, really good at getting offensive rebounds and creating open looks after they get those offensive rebounds. That’s going to be a challenge for us," Harris said. "The other thing is, they’ll pick us up full court and they’ll be very physical with us, be very aggressive. That’s going to be something that – the league we play in is not a very physical, aggressive league, so we’ll have to adjust to that right away. But I think for us, If we can really dictate the tempo of the game, kind of slow them down so they can’t get up and down, then allow us to get in the half court offensively and run our ball-screen stuff, I think we’ll find some success in those situations.”
A key ingredient to victory for MCC is likely the same that it’s been all season long – having fun. This group has played free throughout the year, but they know when to lock in, too.
“We can be pretty loose, but we’re really focused in our film and scouting report sessions. We’re really focused in our sessions of practice where we’re going over Gulf Coast State," Harris said. "They really know when to kind of flip that switch to be really focused and they do a really good job of kind of balancing – like, ‘Hey, we’re going to nationals. Let’s have fun. Let’s celebrate this, let’s have a good time.' But also like, ‘OK. We really have to lock in and focus here, because we have a job to do.’ And I think they do a really good job of it.”
Fifteenth-seeded Gulf Coast State and 18th-seeded MCC will tip off inside the Rip Griffin Center at 1 p.m. MDT on Monday afternoon.