Women’s Basketball make History with NAIA win

Posted By Horizon Staff March 28th, 2013 in Sports : 1 COMMENTS

Cameron O’Neill
Staff Writer

At the beginning of the year, every team has the dream to win the National Championship. That dream came true last Tuesday night for the Westmont Warrior’s women’s basketball team in the form of a 71-65 win over Lee of Tennessee. This gave Westmont their first National Championship. But the year was not without its trials and tribulations.

As the 2012-2013 season approached, Coach Kristen Moore had already been through more trials than most coaches would through in a lifetime of coaching. In a mere two months, she had gone through the death of her husband, due to complications in surgery, and the birth of her first child, Alexis. These events remind everyone at Westmont how precious the gift of life is.

Yet Coach Moore went into the 2012-2013 basketball season with a renewed sense of focus and self-belief in the team who was there for her in the bleakest of times.  With Olympic star Tugce Canitez returning and a cast of strong supporting players, Coach Moore had her eyes set on the National Tournament, leaving the events from the past few months behind her. With the team’s first win against Pepperdine on October 30th, Coach Moore and her team were about to start an extraordinary and passion-driven run that would lift the spirits of Westmont, but more importantly, Coach Moore herself.

The team started the first month of the season with a hopeful 7-1 record—their only loss coming by one point to California Lutheran. The Warriors continued to gain momentum and soared through the GSAC winning all fourteen of their conference games. The only hiccup came in December when the Warriors were outplayed in two straight games by Oklahoma City and Westminster (Utah). Even these losses were building to something special.

The team entered the National Tournament as a number one seed. The Warriors cruised through the tournament until the team was pitted against Westminster (Utah) who had beaten them by thirty points earlier in the year. In order to reach their ultimate goal, the team had to go through the only team to beat them by more than ten points. What seemed like a tough loss during the season was preparing the Warriors for their championship run, much like the trials during the offseason created bonds that the team would rely on later in the year.  The Warriors ended up winning 39-36 against Westminster and were peaking at the right time.

The final would feature Westmont and Lee University of Tennessee. The Warriors got two gutsy performances from the two post players Tugce Canitez and Kelsie Sampson who both scored 25 points. This was a fitting conclusion for Coach Kristen Moore and the team who had to fight through a tough offseason filled with sadness over the loss of Alex Moore. As the clock struck zero, the team and coach Moore were filled with joy as they had reach the pinnacle of NAIA women’s basketball despite the challenges.  Sampson stated in the postgame press conference, “This is the best year of basketball in my entire life”.

The game was intensely close as Lee played a solid first half led by Hollie German. German finished with 27 points and led an early charge by the Lady Flames giving them a 16-8 advantage over the Warriors early on. However, the Warriors clawed their way back into the game throughout the first half, galvanized by incredible post play from Canitez and Sampson.  When talking about the dynamic duo, Coach Moore said, “I can’t say enough about Tugce and Kelsie tonight. They were really tough inside. They were great inside and had a great inside presence”. Canitez finished with 20 rebounds and Sampson had 6 rebounds.

In addition to Canitez having an incredible game, the supporting cast played every bit as well. Ester Lee, once again, was able to knockdown the timely three pointers and finished 4-5 in that category. While Celina Gougi played 40 minutes and finished with 7 rebounds and 9 points for the Warriors.

For Coach Moore, the win only adds to the incredible season that she and the team had. The win will also mark a time of transition for Coach Moore by finally giving her time to reflect on the years’ past events and focus on her daughter. But for now, she can celebrate her hard earned National Championship with the players that have made this team so special.


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