Dotson’s note: With all the attention on the NCAA Basketball’s Men’s National Championship which was won by Louisville Monday night in New Orleans, your attention is invited to the behind the scenes story of another National Championship (NAIA). This championship was won by Westmont College’s women’s team. Thanks to my good friend Jim Tunney (NFL Referee Retired) who sent me this story.
When the final buzzer sounded on Tuesday night, Westmont players and coaches rushed into each other’s arms, celebrating a 71-65 win over Lee of Tennessee (34-3) and their first NAIA Women’s Basketball National Championship. Tears and smiles abounded as the Warriors’ quest to win five games in six days in the 32-team national tournament came to a successful conclusion.
WESTMONT BASKETBALL COACH MOORE WITH DAUGHTER ALEXIS
“I am really happy for my players and the journey we have been through as a group,” said Westmont head coach Kristen Moore. “The perseverance we have shown through trials on and off the court seasoned us for all of the close games we have had throughout the entire tournament.”
Jim Tunney wrote-Westmont College, a small (1300+ students) Christian, liberal college located in Montecito, California won the 2012-13 NAIA Women's basketball championship. Not much of a big deal, most would say, happens to one of those small schools every year. Yeah, but ya gotta hear the "rest-of-the-story". A big thanks to my friend and colleague LA Times esteemed sportswriter, Bill Plaschke, who recently wrote about this for the Times. It bears repeating.
COACH KRISTEN DURING A TIME-OUT
Westmont's women's basketball head coach Kristen McKnight met Alex Moore, a Westmont kinesiology professor in 2003. Alex thought they were "made of each other", but Kristen didn't have time for romance-basketball was her passion. Alex was relentless. They married in 2008. On May 9, 2012 Alex underwent colon surgery for Crohn's disease during which he tragically died due to a pulmonary embolism. Kristen was eight months pregnant with their first child. Seven weeks later the baby was born. Kristen named her Alexis. Time for a sabbatical; I mean, come on, a grieving widow and a new born, not Kristen-she barely took a day off.
Standing in front of her team in August, 2013 preparing for the season, she said, "I'm here and this is going to be a hard road, but I'm here". Kristen continued, "I'm going to be real; you're gonna see me cry a lot, but I have to do this." She didn't have to do it at all! Do courage, dedication and commitment come to mind?
Winning 24 of 27 games for the Warriors to be the Golden State Athletic Conference champions along with NAIA champs would normally be the story; but it was actually the easy part. Members of the athletic department, the community, and the dozen or so players all pitched-in to take care of Alexis. Changing Alexis' diapers on an aluminum bleacher in the women's bathroom, asking the men's team players to turn their heads (since both teams travel together on the bus) while Kristen breast feed Alexis, was just some of the many trials she endured.
Even Alex, then deceased, contributed. Two days after his death while rummaging through Alex's office preparing for his memorial service, Kristen found these Bible verses on two Post-it notes: "Encourage the oppressed, defend the cause of fatherless, plead the case of the widow" and "Be strong and courageous and do the work, do not be afraid or discouraged for the Lord God, my God, is with you". These were Alex's final words to Kristen.
Will you use the strength of your courage to help you carry on?