Western Technical College defeated Northland Community & Technical College by a score of 69-60 to win the 2019-20 NJCAA Division III Women's Basketball National Championship, on Friday March 13 in Rockford, Illinois.
The Cavaliers won the national title under tough conditions; recent NJCAA modifications to the tournament format required the championship squad to play - and win - two games in the same day. Due to COVID-19 concerns and related safety measures, the national office modified both the NJCAA Division III men's and women's national championships, canceling all consolation games and moving the semifinal and championship games to Friday, March 13.
Despite the challenging circumstances, both squads rose to the challenge of dispatching semi-final opponents earlier today, setting up the showdown between two teams from the Minnesota College Athletic Conference.
The battle between two top teams was a tale of two halves; Northland dominated the first half, starting strong and defending well, taking a 36-27 lead into the lockerroom. However, Western Tech stormed out to an amazing third stanza, putting up 23 points after the break in the third quarter. They continued to be on fire from behind the arc and shot their way to a 69-60 Championship win.
For #6 seed Western Technical College, Friday's finale was the first NJCAA national championship opportunity in any sport; last year's Cavaliers squad was the first Western Tech team to advance to NJCAA post-season play. In contrast, fourth-seeded Northland Community & Technical College has booked 11 total trips to the NJCAA women's basketball post-season, winning the championship in 2013-14 and finishing as runner up in 2015-16 and 2001-02.
Head coach Brent Thill set the bar high for future seasons with the Cavaliers; in his first year, Thill guided the Western Technical College, team to it's best-ever finish and a NJCAA National Championship. Western Tech beat host and #2 seed Rock Valley College, 83-74 to earn their trip to the finals.
Head coach Shannon Nelson - a former University of Minnesota Gopher standout and business instructor at Northland - saw her team survive an upset scare in the semi-final as #8 seed Cedar Valley College proved to be a tough test. Janie Wunderlich hit one of two free throws for the one-point win, 50-49.
Notably, both Northland and Western Tech had to survive challenges at the Conference and Region tournament level just to make it to Rockford.
The Pioneers finished tied with Rainy River Community College at 13-1 in the MCAC Northern Division, resulting in co-championship honors for both schools. Northland won the coin flip for the right to host the Region XIIIB tournament, and with the comfortable confines of their home floor, were able to dispatch Central Lakes College 74-52 and Hibbing Community College 76-52 on successive days in Thief River Falls. Hibbing won the 2018-19 Region XIIIB tournament.
Western Technical finished the MCAC Southern Division schedule in second place, one game back of Anoka-Ramsey Community College. As an added challenge, a late-developing three-team Region XIIIA tournament format resulted in the Cavaliers having to win twice in two days, including against the host Golden Rams. WTC proved up to the task, upsetting ARCC 78-75 and setting in motion their playoff run.
The 2019-20 NJCAA Division III Women's Basketball Championship website and information by clicking this link or going to: https://www.njcaa.org/sports/wbkb/2019-20/div3/national_championship/index
For more on MCAC Women's Basketball, please go to: https://www.mcacsports.org/sports/wbkb/index
NJCAA Basketball information, including the NJCAA National Top 15 Poll and Player-of-the-Week releases can be found at: https://www.njcaa.org/sports/wbkb/index
The Minnesota College Athletic Conference is the organizational body for NJCAA-affiliated two-year technical and community college athletic programs in the Minnesota State Colleges & Universities system, as well as select member colleges in North Dakota and Wisconsin. The mission of the Minnesota College Athletic Conference is to advance intercollegiate athletics by providing an engaging and supportive environment for success of our student athletes and competition among member institutions. The MCAC is committed to the guiding principles of encouraging the development and success of student athletes, promoting the integrity, honesty and loyalty to member schools as well as upholding the sustainability of conference athletic programs.
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