LUBBOCK, Tex. (WJHG/WECP) - The motto this season for the Gulf Coast Lady Commodores has been "GC Strong."
Credit: GC Athletics
They've been strong since teammate Keshawn Johnson was killed in a car crash in September.
They've been strong since Hurricane Michael in October.
Gulf Coast was strong for 40 minutes more on Saturday, beating New Mexico 68-62 to win their third national championship in four years and sixth as a program.
The final score is deceptively close. GCSC stated the game on an 18-3 run, leading by 11 at halftime and by double digits nearly in the entire game.
Brittany Davis led the team with 16 points, bolstered by 14 points and 15 rebounds from Alexus Dye.
It's a win for the region.
"I think this one was for so many people,' head coach Roonie Scovel said. "For our team, obviously. We wanted our young ladies to get better at basketball, academically, and grow as people. But we were truly trying to be an inspiration to our campus and our community, and those that suffered so greatly. Hopefully we were, and hopefully we were entertaining because there was some pretty special basketball played."
It's also a win for Keshawn, a source of inspiration to the team all season.
They've stayed in contact with her mother. On Sophomore Day, Scovel and the players presented her with a stuffed game-worn jersey, one of the year's most emotional moments. Today, they FaceTimed during the celebration.
A short time before she passed away, Johnson wrote a letter to herself, declaring her goal to win a title.
Mission accomplished in her memory.
"We talked about it a lot, even last night, the letter that she had written," Scovel added. "It was in there to win the region and try to bring the national trophy back home to Panama City. We got to share the moment with her Mom after the game and kept saying we wanted to fulfill the mission she had talked about so much...it's a great ending."
The victory is a great accomplishment not only for the program, but for the Panhandle Conference at large. This championship is the fifth in a row for the conference, a streak beginning with Chipola in 2015 and carried on by Gulf Coast (2016, 2017, 2019) and Tallahassee (2018).
Gulf Coast began the long journey home immediately after leaving the arena. The team will travel to southeast Texas by bus Saturday night before completing the trek and returning to campus Sunday night.
A campus celebration will occur when the team arrives home Sunday night at 6:30 in front of Harrison Field House. Students and fans are encouraged to attend.