The Newman University Women’s Basketball team is still thawing out from a bitter cold Thanksgiving. While the rest of us enjoyed a relatively warm weather during the holiday, the Lady Jets battled -13 degree weather in Fairbanks, Alaska, where they competed in the North Star Invitational from Nov. 24 through 26.
Despite the freezing temperature outside, the Jets were on fire in the court. Newman took on the host team Alaska-Fairbanks to start the tournament, beating the Nanooks 71-61. For day two of the tournament, the Jets faced off against Metro State, holding on to win a close 57-53 contest. Newman took on Stanislaus State in the final game, defeating the Warriors 71-57 to bring home the tournament championship.
The Newman Jets were the first team in the 15-year history of the North Star Invitational to win all three games. Newman sophomore Bria DeGrate was declared the tournament MVP.
— Newman Athletics (@Newman_Jets) November 27, 2016
What started out as an idea three years ago became a reality that would forever change the lives of the team. Women’s Basketball Coach Darin Spence wanted to show his appreciation to two seniors who demonstrated exceptional team building on and off the court throughout their four-year student-athletic career at Newman University: Mali Wright and Cierra Tjaden.
“It just got to be a great experience,” said Spence. “No one in our group, coaches or players, had ever been to Alaska. So it was a lifelong experience trip.”
Off the court, the team was able to experience the grandeur of Alaska. They relaxed at the Chena Hot Springs Resort, dined at local restaurants, and visited an ice museum. They even visited Santa’s North Pole.
The coach only had one strict rule along the 3,000 mile trip.
“No one was allowed to complain how cold it was,” said Spence.
After the team safely returned to the Wichita campus alive, it is assumed that the team kept their word.
“The trip was more than what I thought is was going to be,” said Spence. “They came together. The learned who they were a bit better. When someone was having a bad moment, during the game, they just picked each other up. I just saw us grow together and took a big step forward.”
Coach Darin Spence achieves 500th win
On Dec. 1, the Newman Jets Women's Basketball Team defeated Central Christian 88-42 during a home game. This win marked Women’s Basketball Coach Darin Spence's 500th win for his collegiate coaching career.
— Newman Athletics (@Newman_Jets) December 2, 2016