When on a long and winding journey, it is wise to check the map or GPS device from time to time to make sure you are still on course.
For the Newman University women’s basketball team, earning a berth to its first-ever MidAmerican Athletic Association (MIAA) postseason tournament is like a bright highway sign displaying to all — “bright future ahead”.
Twelve months ago, as their first year as Newman co-head coaches came to a close, Drew Johnson and Nicole Ohlde Johnson and their team had won just one time in conference play and finished 3-25 overall.
But, with a 72-66 victory in their home finale Saturday against visiting Central Oklahoma, the Jets punched their ticket to the 2023 MIAA postseason basketball tournament as the ninth seed.
Newman (7-15 MIAA, 10-17 overall) will take on eighth-seeded Northwest Missouri State (9-13, 14-14) at 6 p.m. March 1 in the first game of the MIAA Women’s Basketball Championship, presented by Southern Bank, at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Missouri.
“The MIAA is really, really, really good. And we know that night in and night out, it’s gonna take your best effort,” Drew Johnson said.
The Jets finished the regular season by winning three of their final four games. The strong finish, postseason tournament spot and double-digit wins in the overall standings are good indicators that the Newman women are on the right path.
“If you could do that in year two and retain the players that are here, we’ve got a great group of core players that are starting to really, really change the atmosphere here for the women’s basketball program,” Johnson added, “We just wanna celebrate them and celebrate the end of this thing while also trying to chase it as much as we possibly can.”
Senior Britney Ho is the team’s leading scorer averaging 17.5 points per game. She led the way against Central with 20 points, putting her over 1,000 points for her career. A trip to the MIAA tourney is a wonderful way to close out her two years as a Jet.
“That’s big time for us … just as a program starting from ground zero last year with a new head coach, new team, (it’s) amazing obviously,” Ho said, “but the work is not done then. It’s still gonna be process driven every day in practice.”
Getting better as a program is a process and Johnson is excited to have players on his roster, like Ho, who fit what he wants Newman women’s basketball to represent.
“We talk a lot about just the overall foundation principle that we’re trying to build. Do you wanna win a bunch of games and have a bunch of success? Absolutely, but, we want to do it the right way and build the right way with high-character kids in the locker room. We want to be great in the community and represent Newman and everything that we do,” Johnson said.
If they can get past their opening-round foe, NW Missouri State, the Jets would face conference regular season champion Nebraska-Kearney in the 6 p.m. quarterfinal game on Thursday, March 2.
More importantly for the Johnsons and the Jets, a check of the map — just 16 months into the journey — shows that they are flying in the right direction to bigger and better successes ahead.
Story photos courtesy Richard Rico – Snapshots
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