Hosting a championship

February 27, 2016

This spring break, JCCC is again site for NJCAA women’s basketball tournament. Get your tickets now.

On the evening of Saturday, March 19, a national champion will be decided on the court of Johnson County Community College.

The National Junior College Athletic Association D-II women’s basketball championship game will cap off a week of contentious contests to get to that final game.

It also will mark the conclusion of the college’s three-year run as the host site, since the tournament moves to North Arkansas College for next three years.

Tickets are available as day passes ($10 adults, $5 seniors and children) or tournament passes ($40 adults, $20 seniors and children) and may be purchased online.

Last year’s dramatic ending

Last year, the host team won the coveted championship in a buzzer-beater shot. Johnson County defeated Parkland College 66-64, and a wave of students flooded onto the court in celebration.

When the shot first went through, JCCC head coach Ben Conrad wasn’t really sure what had just occurred.

“There was a good five-second delay, like a dream,” Conrad said. “Then Phillipe (McCree-JCCC assistant coach) bear-hugged me from behind and yelled, ‘We just won the thing on a buzzer beater!’ and it hit me.

“Seeing the students and the excitement of the students and players was the most amazing thing I have experienced in athletics. It was a proud night to be part of the JCCC community. I get emotional just thinking about those players of ours having that special night,” he said.

Thanks for the memories

Johnson County always will have lasting memories on the history of the women’s tournament for the NJCAA.

From 1975-82, former JCCC athletic director Orville Gregory played a significant role in the development of women’s basketball at the community college level.

The idea for the women’s tournament was born ironically when the JCCC men’s team missed its bid for participation in the 1973 men’s national tournament.  If men could feel such disappointment at not making the tournament after losing in the region playoffs, what must women players feel when they didn’t even have a national tournament to go to?

That was the thought that propelled Gregory to set up first inquiries into the possibility of a women’s tournament.

Gregory conducted a survey of all the NJCAA member colleges to see if there was any interest in a national invitational women’s basketball tournament. The initial response was tentative. By December 1973, only seven teams had shown an interest. Then the idea caught on and other teams made inquiries. The new interest came too late for a 1974 tournament, but the decision was made to go ahead with the first national women’s tournament in 1975 on the JCCC campus.

That tournament was not only groundbreaking for women’s basketball, but for all women’s sports for two-year colleges in the country. It was the only national championship offered by the NJCAA for women.

Today, the NJCAA sanctions 23 national championships for women in 13 sports, and in women’s basketball, there are three divisions with 405 schools that field a team.

Making it memorable

This year will be the 12th tournament to be played on JCCC’s campus, and it will be the fourth time Pam Vassar, assistant dean, student life, will serve as the director of the tournament. She says that while hosting a national tournament is big endeavor, it also has provided an opportunity to showcase the college and community.

“The biggest challenge is the coordination of all the details, both big and small,” Vassar said. “We rely on volunteers, staff, student employees and community members to help with this event. The coordination of all the moving parts provides the biggest challenge, but also the greatest rewards when we deliver a quality tournament.”

“We also want to provide a truly memorable experience for the athletes,” she said “Very few athletes have the opportunity to experience a national tournament, so it is our goal as hosts to deliver a quality experience that provides a memory that will last a lifetime.”

Watch it online

Can’t make it to the games on campus? Catch the games via live streaming at Students from JCAV, the video reporting and production component of the Student News Center, will be shooting the games and providing commentary.