By: Chase Gardiner/GCU Staff
The Grand Canyon University Women’s Club Basketball team put on an inspiring performance of perseverance over the weekend as they competed in the NIRSA Regional Basketball Tournament in Sacramento, California. After an impressive 3-1 finish in pool play on Saturday, the Lopes strung together a perfect run in Sunday’s elimination round as they claimed the tournament’s championship trophy. To make things even sweeter, GCU’s very own Jaiviana James was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
As pool play began, the Lopes hit the ground running with two consecutive 20-point blow-outs, routing both the University of California, Los Angeles, and San Diego State University. Although they had hoped to keep this positive momentum going, the women quickly hit a bump in the road, suffering their only loss of the tournament at the hands of California State Polytechnic University, Pomona Saturday afternoon
Although the Lopes would have preferred to keep their undefeated record intact, GCU Head Coach Erin Reinke admitted that the loss served as “a much needed eye-opener, which was the turning point of the tournament.”
“The last seven minutes, we turned it around after being down by 20, and continued fighting,” said Reinke. “We needed to learn what it would take to win, and what adjustments needed to be made, and this game showed us exactly that.”
The Lopes proved to be quick learners as they made all necessary adjustments and closed out pool play with a win against the University of Denver later that night. Keeping with the pattern, the women opened elimination play Sunday with another quick defeat of UCLA, as well as a victory in a redemption match against Cal Poly Pomona in the semifinals. Finally, the Lopes faced off against a familiar foe, the GCU Intramurals All-Star team, who had also earned a spot in the championship game. Collegiate similarities aside, the women’s club team emerged with another victory, this time in nail-biting fashion, defeating the GCU All-Stars, 35-34.
While the Lopes’ offense had held its own all tournament long, it was play on the other end of the court that ultimately rewarded the women’s team with a title.
“It was defense at the end of the day that won us the tournament,” said Reinke. “We had been implementing defense in practice almost every day over the past month, and it really payed off, especially in that last game.”
After such an inspiring championship run, Reinke had plenty of reasons to be proud of her team.
“I kept telling them all week how proud I was that, when earlier in the season, we would’ve fallen apart after losing, this time we managed to stay together,” said Reinke. “We played as a family and trusted each other.”
In fact, there was one more member of the family that was vital to the team’s success that weekend.
“My assistant coach, Kyle Speed, has been a big part of the success of the team, and we couldn’t have done it without him,” explained Reinke. “He has been a huge part of the growth, and he deserves a lot of the credit.”
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