Although the Tyler Junior College basketball teams will be some 550 miles away from the Rose City, the Apache Ladies and Apaches will feel right at home in the NJCAA national tournaments in Kansas.

What makes it feel like "home sweet home" in the land of sunflowers and wheat is the fact the Apache Ladies are making their fifth trip to Salina, home of the women's national tournament, under head coach Trenia Tillis-Jones and the sixth overall. In 2000, coach Lee Ann Riley led the Apache Ladies to the national championship in Salina.

As for the Apaches, head Mike Marquis and four of his players are not far from Hutchinson, site of the men's tournament.

Plus, legendary coach Floyd Wagstaff led the Apaches to two national titles there, plus carrying his team to nationals 11 times. Wagstaff's Apaches were national champions in 1949 and 1951 and runners-up in 1960 and 1961.

What makes it even more special this year for TJC fans is that both basketball teams are at nationals for the first time. So the Black & Gold fans would love to make that 65 mile trip between Salina and Hutch a few times.

 

Apache Ladies

For the third time, the TJC women's squad is making back-to-back trips to nationals — 1984-85 in Senatobia, Mississippi and 2000-2001 in Salina.

This is the 18th and final year of the tournament in Salina. It will move to Lubbock for at least the next three years beginning in 2016.

Tillis-Jones said it makes it special for TJC to be participating in the final year in Salina. The Apache Ladies were not only standouts on the court by making the Elite Eight last year, but also off the court. They were awarded the Alberta Lee Cox Sportsmanship Award.

"Salina loves Tyler," she said. "As soon as we get there they are so excited. Tiffany (Benien, tournament director) has done such a great job with the tournament for so many years. When we get to Salina, it is like old home week. Our team hosts from last year were so excited we made it back. They wanted us again. That just shows our kids are doing the right thing. They represent themselves, our program and Tyler Junior College with great character."

Tillis-Jones was somewhat surprised about the great season the Apache Ladies have had.

"We lost so much firepower from last year. I was hoping we could just make the regional tournament," said Tillis-Jones, whose club is 28-4 overall and ranked No. 7 in the nation. "This group has excelled. They have gone above and beyond expectations … and they don't stop. They got fight in them. They wanted this. They are the reason we are going back for a second time. They wanted to go to the national tournament."

The usual starting five for TJC are sophomore guard Victoria Kemokai (5-3, Richmond), sophomore point guard Sandy Jackson (5-7, North Little Rock, Arkansas), sophomore shooting guard Brittny Norris (5-9, Dallas), sophomore forward Jasmine Prophet (6-0, Houston) and sophomore post Chelsi Watson (5-9, Monroe, Louisiana).

Other key players are sophomore wing Jade Jones (Round Rock), freshman point guard Alexundria Sims (Bryan), sophomore guard Erica Carson (Overton), freshman center Taudenciah Oluoch (Nairobi, Kenya), sophomore wing Amber Driver (Spring) and freshman wing Princess Cole (Little Rock, Arkansas).

"It is fun when you coach good kids and don't have to worry about them when you go home," Tillis-Jones said. "Academically they take care of business. They are always ‘yes, ma'am' and ‘no, ma'am' and they keep me laughing all the time."

The Apache Ladies, the No. 10 seeds, have a first round game with No. 23 Lawson State (Alabama) (24-9) at 8:30 p.m. Monday at the Bicentennial Center. The tournament is single elimination.

A win moves the Apache Ladies into the second round against No. 7 Southern Idaho (21-11) at 3 p.m. Wednesday.

 

Apaches

Marquis is from Newton, Iowa and coached at Marshalltown Community College (Marshalltown, Iowa) and Indian Hills Community College (Ottumwa, Iowa) before becoming the TJC head coach in 2000.

There are three Apaches from the Hawkeye State — Faith Pope (6-7 sophomore forward, Mount Pleasant), Dale Jones (6-8 sophomore forward, Waterloo, Iowa) and Ikenna Okwarabizie (6-10 freshman center, Sioux City, Iowa). Also, Tyler Miller (6-6 sophomore forward) is from just up the road in Milwaukee.

"We should have a few folks rooting for us," Marquis said. "This is kind of a bonus getting close to home.

"This team as long as they stayed focused, I don't care where we play, and if we keep playing like we have been we will have some good results."

The Apaches rolled through the Region XIV Tournament with wins over Lee (90-76) and Trinity Valley (81-65). After Navarro had to withdraw from the tournament for an ineligible player on their roster, TJC then defeated old rival San Jacinto 72-65 in the final to earn a berth to nationals.

"Sometimes good things happen to good people," Marquis said of his team. "They take pride in their citizenship, pride in representing a great institution. It means a lot to those kids to be at Tyler Junior College. They represent themselves well in this area and now they get a chance to do so nationally."

The usual starting lineup includes Dominique Shaw (6-4 sophomore guard, Lufkin), Pope, Jones, Okwarabizie and Ronnie Stacy (6-3 freshman guard, Alexander City, Alabama).

Other key players include sophomore forward Levi Yancy (White Oak), freshman guard Stephen Taylor (Houston), freshman forward Jeremy Adams (Houston), freshman guard Jacob Socha (St. Louis), freshman guard Cohen Desouza (Antigua & Barbuda), freshman guard Darryl Stewart (Atlanta, Georgia), 6-11 center John Paul (Saint Lucia) and Miller.

The Apaches (24-9), the No. 17 seeds, have a first round game with No. 16 Faulkner State (Alabama) (25-6) at 10 a.m. Monday at the Hutchinson Sports Arena. The tournament is single elimination.

A win moves the Apaches into the second round against No. 1 Connors State (Oklahoma) (31-1) at 2 p.m. Tuesday.

 

Twitter:@PhilHicksETFS

 

 

 

 

NJCAA Division I Women's

National Basketball

Championship

March 16-21

Bicentennial Center,

Salina, Kan.

Monday's Games

First Round

Game 1: No. 16 Western Nebraska (31-2) vs. No. 17 South Georgia Tech (27-7), 10 a.m.

Game 2: No. 9 Northwest Florida State (26-4) vs. No. 24 Murray State (Okla.) (14-17), noon

Game 3: No. 13 Wabash Valley (Ill.) (27-6) vs. No. 20 Itawamba (Miss.) (23-4), 2 p.m.

Game 4: No. 12 Seward County (Kansas) (27-5) vs. No. 21 Lake Region State (North Dakota) (26-7), 4:30 p.m.

Game 5: No. 15 Coffeyville (Kansas) (25-9) vs. No. 18 Northeastern (Colo.) (26-6), 6:30 p.m.

Game 6: No. 10 Tyler (Texas) (28-4) vs. No. 23 Lawson State (Alabama) (24-9), 8:30 p.m.

Tuesday's Games

First Round

Game 7: No. 14 Eastern Arizona (27-4) vs. No. 19 Wallace State (Alabama) (27-5), 10 a.m.

Game 8: No. 11 Salt Lake (26-6) vs. No. 22 ASA (New York) (16-4), noon

Second Round

Game 9: Winner Game 1 vs. No. 1 Hutchinson (Kan.) (33-0), 2 p.m.

Game 10: Winner Game 2 vs. No. 8 Central Arizona (24-4), 4:30 p.m.

Game 11: Winner Game 3 vs. No. 4 New Mexico JC (28-3), 6:30 p.m.

Game 12: Winner Game 4 vs. No. 5 Walters State (Tenn.) (30-2), 8:30 p.m.

Wednesday's Games

Second Round

Game 13: Winner Game 5 vs. No. 2 Chipola (Florida) (30-1), 1 p.m.

Game 14: Winner Game 6 vs. No. 7 Southern Idaho (21-11), 3 p.m.

Game 15: Winner Game 7 vs. No. 3 Trinity Valley (29-3), 5 p.m.

Game 16: Winner Game 8 vs. No. 6 Iowa Western (30-3), 7 p.m.

Thursday's Games

Quarterfinals

Game 17: Winner Game 9 vs. Winner Game 10, 1 p.m.

Game 18: Winner Game 11 vs. Winner Game 12, 3 p.m.

Game 19: Winner Game 13 vs. Winner Game 14, 5 p.m.

Game 20: Winner Game 15 vs. Winner Game 16, 7 p.m.

Friday's Games

Semifinals

Game 21: Winner Game 17 vs. Winner Game 18, 6 p.m.

Game 22: Winner Game 19 vs. Winner Game 20, 8 p.m.

Saturday's Games

Third-Place

Game 23: Loser Game 21 vs. Loser Game 22, 5 p.m.

Game 24: Winner Game 21 vs. Loser Game 22, 7 p.m.

 

NJCAA Division I Men's

National Basketball

Championship

March 16-21

Hutchinson Sports Arena,

Hutchinson, Kan.

Monday's Games

First Round

Game 1: No. 16 Faulkner State (Ala.) (25-6) vs. No. 17 Tyler (Texas) (24-9), 10 a.m.

Game 2: No. 9 Vincennes (Ind.) (32-1) vs. No. 24 Cochise (Ariz.) (23-10), noon

Game 3: No. 13 Eastern Florida State (29-4) vs. No. 20 Holmes (Miss.) (23-6), 2 p.m.

Game 4: No. 12 Hill (Texas) (28-3) vs. No. 21 Gillette (Wyo.) (27-7), 4:30 p.m.

Game 5: No. 15 San Jacinto (Texas) (28-5) vs. No. 18 Columbia State (Tenn.) (24-6), 6:30 p.m.

Game 6: No. 10 John A. Logan (Ill.) (27-6) vs. No. 23 Cape Fear (N.C.) (23-8), 8:30 p.m.

Tuesday's Games

First Round

Game 7: No. 14 Butler (Kansas) (29-3) vs. No. 19 Georgia Highlands (Alabama) (27-6), 10 a.m.

Game 8: No. 11 Trinity Valley (Texas) (27-4) vs. No. 22 Monroe (New York) (24-8), noon

Second Round

Game 9: Winner Game 1 vs. No. 1 Connors State (Okla.) (31-1), 2 p.m.

Game 10: Winner Game 2 vs. No. 8 South Plains (Texas) (26-6), 4:30 p.m.

Game 11: Winner Game 3 vs. No. 4 Indian Hills (Iowa) (29-4), 6:30 p.m.

Game 12: Winner Game 4 vs. No. 5 Mineral Area (Mo.) (27-3), 8:30 p.m.

Wednesday's Games

Second Round

Game 13: Winner Game 5 vs. No. 2 Northwest Florida State (29-2), noon

Game 14: Winner Game 6 vs. No. 7 Northwest (Wyo.) (30-4), 2 p.m.

Game 15: Winner Game 7 vs. No. 3 Southern Idaho (31-2), 6 p.m.

Game 16: Winner Game 8 vs. No. 6 Hutchinson (Kan.) (27-6), 8 p.m.

Thursday's Games

Quarterfinals

Game 17: Winner Game 9 vs. Winner Game 10, noon

Game 18: Winner Game 11 vs. Winner Game 12, 2 p.m.

Game 19: Winner Game 13 vs. Winner Game 14, 6 p.m.

Game 20: Winner Game 15 vs. Winner Game 16, 8 p.m.

Friday's Games

Semifinals

Game 21: Winner Game 17 vs. Winner Game 18, 6 p.m.

Game 22: Winner Game 19 vs. Winner Game 20, 8 p.m.

Saturday's Games

Third-Place

Game 23: Loser Game 21 vs. Loser Game 22, 5 p.m.

Game 24: Winner Game 21 vs. Loser Game 22, 7 p.m.

 
 

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Sports Editor

I am a native Tylerite and I grew up reading the Tyler Morning Telegraph and The Tyler Courier-Times. My parents took both the morning and afternoon papers. I came to work here 35 years ago at the age of 23, right after college.