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Buffaloes Capture Inaugural Big 12 Tournament Championship
One of the more storied women's basketball programs in the Big Eight Conference, Colorado struggled into the inaugural season of the Big 12 Conference winning just five of its first nine games.
But the Buffaloes rallied. Led by Erin Scholz and Raegan Scott, Colorado finished third in the Big 12 regular season standings at 12-4 and then swept past Iowa State, Texas and Kansas State to claim the first Big 12 Tournament championship. Colorado would advance to the NCAA Sweet 16 for the fourth time in five years before falling to Tennessee in the Regional semifinals. (Keyed in by CU Student Assistant SID Cydney Ricker).
By Neill Woelk
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Along about the time the Colorado Buffaloes had dropped three in a row, fallen to 5-4 on the season and out of the Top 25, Erin Scholz bravely told the world the Buffs would be back.
Not many people listened.
Saturday night, Scholz and her teammates were at midcourt at Kansas City’s Municipal Auditorium to collect the first Big 12 Women’s Tournament championship trophy.
We should have paid attention.
“I never, ever stopped believing,” said Scholz, who picked the Buffs up and carried them though those rough times. “I knew that sooner or later we’d turn it on.”
The switch came on when the conference season started. The juice never followed harder than in this tournament. The Buffs capped a three-game run to the title with a 55-44 win over Kansas State, ending a run in which they held tourney opponents to 39, 50 and 44 points.
“I never lost confidence,” said CU coach Ceal Barry. “I just felt like when we were struggling, we were still going to be OK.
“I just didn’t know how long it was going to take.”
Actually, Barry didn’t stop believing because Scholz wouldn’t let her. The leader of a senior class that had been to three straight NCAA Tournaments, three straight conference tourney finals and three straight 20-win seasons wouldn’t let her coach believe that there was anything else in the future but four.
Barry listened to Scholz.
“I remember when we lost to Stanford (the Buffs’ third straight loss in December),” Barry said. “Erin was the one who kept insisting that people better not count this team out. She’s the one who kept saying she had confidence in her teammates.
“When a coaching staff hears stuff like that from their kids, it makes you want to bust your tail to help them get there.”
Not that it was easy. As the same time that women’s team was struggling, the CU men’s team was enjoying newfound success. Attendance—and interest—in the women’s team was down.
“I could see the hurt in their faces when we’d come out at home and the crowds were off,” Barry said. “They were a little disillusioned. They had to deal with that, and it wasn’t easy.”
That’s when they discovered that the only way to survive tough times was to fight back.
“We knew we had a good team,” Scholz said. “We knew we’d be back, and we knew that there were still some people who were behind us. We weren’t going to let them down or let ourselves down.”
When the all-tournament team was announced Saturday night, the Buffs had two players on the team—but not the MVP. That honor went to K-State’s Andria Jones.
Most teams would have been irate at such a snub.
The Buffs merely shrugged their shoulders at what was just the latest in a season of cold shoulders.
“Our system is a team system,” Scholz said. “We don’t rely on a single person. If we have to sacrifice personal accolades, so be it.
“We’d rather win championships than get personal awards.”
After the awards ceremony, Barry watched with a smile as her team cut the Municipal Auditorium nets down.
“I think the kids deserve this,” she said. “They’ve established a level of excellence in their years here, and when times got a little tough, it seemed like some people gave up on them a little early.
“It’s nice for them to win it back.”
Now, the Buffs have a little niche in history: the last Big Eight tourney champs and the first Big 12 tourney champs. Along the way, they held Iowa State to a season-low 39 points, beat No. 12 Texas, and smothered Kansas State in the championship game.
“It wasn’t a matter of a size advantage,” said CU’s Raegan Scott, inexplicably left off the all-tourney team. “It wasn’t a matter of who was playing zone defense or man.”
“It was heart that was the key to this game.”
That, and a little matter of keeping the faith.
Maybe next time we’ll listen to Erin Scholz.
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