Gulf Coast welcomed home with championship celebration

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - The Gulf Coast Lady Commodores have returned to Panama City and their rightful place atop the NJCAA basketball throne.

Following four games in four days and a two thousand mile round trip bus journey, they'll be happy to finally get some sleep Sunday night.

Around 6:30 Sunday evening, they were all happy to be at Harrison Field House one last time.

The national champions received a hero's escort with helicopter and sheriff's cars. Upon stepping off the bus, they received a hero's welcome from the community.

"One of my favorite things and your goal is to get the escort home," head coach Roonie Scovel said. "We stopped at Ebro and they got to take pictures. That's like the moment that you say, 'oh my gosh, we really did something special! The town is going to roll out the red carpet."

They hopped off the bus with trophy in hand and they took more hardware home.

Bay County commissioner Philip "Griff" Griffitts presented Scovel with a framed proclamation declaring this week to officially be "Lady Commodores week." Panama City Mayor Greg Brudnicki offered up the key to the city.

Scovel has six titles now, but this year's will stand out forever.

"These kids, I don't think they realized until they saw it what they really accomplished and what it means to everybody else."

It means a lot to people who weren't there too.

The team has carried on in late teammate Keshawn Johnson's memory.
Over the summer, Keshawn wrote a letter to herself, setting goals to win state and national titles.

For her friends, accomplishing her mission means everything.

"It means a lot to me," sophomore center and roommate Dominique Banks said. "I know that letter was important to everybody because she wrote about us and wrote about everything that she wanted to do. She really wanted to win this championship, so we wanted to fulfill her dream and we did."

Banks is one of five sophomores, along with tournament MVP Alexus Dye, Nakia Kincey, Astou Gaye and Diene Diene.

Between personal tragedy and Hurricane Michael, the start to the season was a nightmare.

Saturday and Sunday, they received a storybook ending.