BILLINGS — The undefeated women’s basketball team at Miles Community College continues to make history.
Already the only team in school history with an undefeated regular season, this year’s team is the fourth from the school to qualify for the National Junior College Athletic Association Division I Women’s Basketball Championship.
Assured of a spot at the national tourney for the first time since 1990 by virtue of its District D championship game win on Saturday, the Pioneers found out their first-round opponent at a local watch party for the NJCAA Selection Show that began at 9 a.m. Monday at Kailey Gymnasium.
The 33-0 Pioneers, seeded 18th, will play Walters State on Monday, March 18 at 1 p.m. Mountain. Walters State, located in Morristown, Tennessee, is the 15th seed and has a 28-4 record.
“We are excited,” second-year MCC coach Nate Vogel said. “It’s been a fun year. We don’t want it to end. We are just thankful we get another week, week and a half, to be with each other and hopefully get some wins down there.”
The national tournament is March 18-23 at the Rip Griffin Center in Lubbock, Texas. The Pioneers will depart Miles City by bus on Thursday, spend the night in Denver and finish the 15-hour trip to Lubbock on Friday.
Miles CC has received plenty of fan support this season with some local businesses sending congratulatory cards to the team and posting messages on their signs. Other supporters have sent encouraging messages via text, email and social media. Plus, there was a good crowd on hand at the watch party, Vogel said.
“A pretty good amount of people showed up. The selection show was on a big screen and everyone could see,” he said. “It was fun for our team to be a part of it. You don’t get to do that all the time. It was fun for our team and our fans to be a part of it. That was nice.
“It’s a big deal, not only for our current team, but it’s exciting for our school and community.”
MCC will have a seasoned opponent in Walters State.
The Senators recently won their eighth straight Tennessee Community College Athletic Association/NJCAA Region VII Tournament championship. Walters State has won 17 straight games.
According to a release on the school's website, Walters State — coached by Dave Kragel — has advanced to the national tourney eight consecutive years. It will be the team's 12th appearance in the last 13 years at the national tourney, and the 16th time overall the Senators have advanced to the national championships.
While Vogel noted the Senators have six players 6-foot or taller on their roster, he said, “we are hoping they have to adjust to us. We will still do our pressure and try and make them adjust to our full-court pressure as opposed to us having to adjust to them. We’ll see who wins that battle, I guess.”
The Pioneers clinched their national tourney bid with an 86-59 win over Highland Community College in the District D championship game.
Patrycja Jaworska leads the Pioneers' attack. The 5-foot-6 sophomore from Poland was recently named to the WBCA All-America junior college team. Jaworska was the Region XIII Tournament co-MVP and the MVP of the Mon-Dak Conference. This season, Jaworska averaged 14.6 points, 3.5 assists and 2.06 steals per game. She made 41.8 percent of her 3-point attempts, ranking sixth in the nation.
The Pioneers were also represented on the Region XIII All-Region team by Jaworska and sophomore Bre Moea'i of Salt Lake City.
In addition, Moea’i was named first-team all-conference and freshman Claire Borot of France was a second-team All-Conference selection.
Jaworska led MCC with 15 points and four assists in the district title game. Dakota Dosch, Josselin Geer and Kylee Meredith each tacked on 12 points. Lucia Salazar netted 10 points and eight boards, while Moea'i added eight rebounds and four assists and Dosch had five steals.
Dosch is a sophomore from Cut Bank, Geer is a freshman from Florida, Meredith is a sophomore from Kalispell and Salazar is a freshman from Spain.
“It was interesting. Obviously we are excited to get into the national tournament,” Vogel said while reflecting on the district championship game. “We won by a bunch and were ahead by 30 a lot of the game. It was a mixed reeling in that we are excited to make the national tournament, but we have more work to do. There was an excitement about winning, but we know we have to get ready for the next one.”
Along the way this year, Vogel earned Region XIII coach of the year honors and was also a finalist for the national coach of the year. Vogel, a native of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, was also named the Mon-Dak coach of the year.
The 1990 tournament marked the third straight trip to the national tourney for the Pioneers, who finished 25-8 that season and 0-2 at nationals. Kankakee (Illinois) topped MCC 66-51 and Southern Idaho beat the Pioneers 86-66 in Tyler, Texas. Now, the tourney is single elimination, but some past versions featured consolation games.
In 1988, the MCC women (19-10) became the first Treasure State junior college team to advance to the national tourney and lost 90-72 to Lees (Kentucky) in the opening round in Senatobia, Mississippi.
Then, in 1989, the Pioneers made their second consecutive appearance on the national stage. MCC defeated Moraine Valley Community College (Illinois) 77-72 in the first round in Tyler, Texas. John Logan College (Illinois) defeated MCC (24-8) 77-59 in the second round.
Dennis Lordemann, now a photographer in Billings, was the Pioneers' coach when the school made its previous three national tourney appearances.
NOTES: Of the 24 teams in the tournament, there are only two undefeated squads. Joining MCC among the unbeaten is No. 1 seed Wabash Valley (Illinois), which is 31-0. ... No. 23 seed Harford (Maryland) is 31-1, while No. 9 Jones (Mississippi) is 27-2. ... MCC ranks second in the country in 3-point field goals made, making 336 of 931 attempts for 36.1 percent. … The Pioneers rank 15th in scoring at 81.3 points per game. ... MCC’s defense allows 51.3 ppg, which ranks fourth. ... Walters State limits opponents to 50 ppg, which is second best in the country. ... Walters State averages 68.7 points per contest, ranking 86th. … MCC finished the regular season 30-0, before posting two wins at the regional and another in the district championship.