By Doug Halberstadt
At this time of year when the topic of college basketball comes up, everyone automatically thinks of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament that is currently under way. A couple more weeks of games are left to be played before a national champion will be crowned in that tournament. Despite all the national attention focused on the “Big Dance,” there was still some very important basketball news made this past weekend much closer to home.
Locally, the Lady Golden Eagles of Rock Valley College don’t have to wait another minute to lay claim to a national title. They defeated Roxbury College last Saturday night (March 17) 82-64 in the NJCAA Division III national championship game in women’s basketball played in Rochester, Minn.
Rock Valley entered the tournament as the No. 4 seed. They defeated the fifth, first and third seeds on their way to the championship.
The Golden Eagles finished the year with a 28-6 record, and brought the school their first national title in women’s basketball.
Rock Valley played an unusual schedule this season. “Our conference was a little weird this year,” explained third-year Rock Valley coach Misty Opat. “We had to pick up a few extra games.” Those extra games turned out to be against higher division schools. “With our tough schedule, I think we struggled early, but I think it paid off at the end,” Opat said.
The Eagles didn’t lose a game (13-0) all season to a Division III opponent. The six losses came against scholarship schools.
Rock Valley freshman center Revonnia Howard was a key factor in the Eagles’ postseason success. She was named the tournament MVP. Howard scored 23 points on 10-for-16 shooting in the finals and pulled down 25 rebounds. The 6-foot-2 native of Chicago had tied a tournament record with 28 rebounds in the quarterfinals.
RVC’s outstanding rebounding was another key in the win over Roxbury. The Golden Eagles controlled the boards 78-60 against the outmatched Lady Tigers. Rock Valley capitalized on numerous second-chance baskets as it had 34 offensive rebounds, 11 by Howard.
Erin Ryczek, a 5-foot-9 sophomore guard, led the Eagles in scoring in the championship game. She made nine of 13 shots for a game-high 24 points and added eight rebounds while 6-foot-1 center Marion Thompson added another seven rebounds to the total.
Rock Valley won the crown in its third national appearance. The last time RVC played in the tournament was in 2009.
This is the second national title for the school this year. The women’s tennis team also brought home a championship earlier this year.
From the March 21-27, 2012, issue