Northwest Florida celebrates a national basketball championship for a third straight year!
PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) -The folks at Northwest Florida are celebrating in the wake of the second womens basketball national championship in three years. Coach Bart Walker and the team all arriving back late Tuesday night, or in the early morning hours Wednesday. That after driving back from Lubbock, Texas where they won four straight games on the way to the national title. They beat Trinity Valley in the final Monday night. So national championships in ‘21 and ‘23 now for the ladies. Northwest Athletic Director Ramsey Ross telling me they’ve scheduled a celebration at the school that everyone is invited to this coming Monday at 11:30. “That will be in building 400, our cafeteria downstairs.” Ross told me Wednesday via Zoom. “We want to make it a casual environment to celebrate the amazing accomplishments that they had. Also do some formal addresses by myself, the president and the head coach and our Board Chair because it is such an incredible accomplishment. And we are so proud of these ladies.”
Coach Walker delivering the trophy back to campus Wednesday morning. Ending a trip that helped make it one school winning national basketball titles in three straight years! I asked Ross about what that feels like as the A.D. at that very school?
“You know you just said that, just a second ago Scott. And it really hasn’t quite set in.” Ross told me. “Even though I knew that was the case, it’s just some thing that really is, it’s going to take a while to settle in.” Ross went on to say “The fact that we’ve established the culture here that allows our coaches and student athletes to thrive, it’s something I’m very proud of. You know you’ve got to get a little lucky. But obviously you hold kids accountable. You hold them to a standard. And they know when they come here they’re playing for championships. That’s why they come here. And so we’ve been able to establish that culture and that standard.”
Ross says with both teams making their respective national tournaments, he and school President Dr. Devin Stephenson decided to split duties, with the president going to the womens tournament in Lubbock, and Ross going to the mens tourney in Hutchinson, Kansas. The mens team lost in its final Saturday. So that left Ross the opportunity to make it down to Texas for the womens semifinal and perhaps the final. So he booked a 6 a.m. flight from Wichita to Lubbock Sunday morning. ”Unfortunately I missed my flight.” Ross said. “There are not many flights going from Wichita to Lubbock. So I had to make a quick decision and drive, because we played that Sunday afternoon. So I had to get in the car and drive 7 1/2 hours. Saw a lot of the country that I thought I never would see. It was a great opportunity to do that. A lot of coffee but we got through it. Again if the NJCAA had not staggered that tournament it wouldn’t have been possible, so really grateful for that.”
So an exhaustive week-plus for all involved, especially the A.D., but all worth it, he says! That team celebration Monday from 11:30 to 1:00 in the cafeteria.
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