INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Lubbock Christian's players had to go two years without being eligible to play in a postseason.
This year, after completing the transition from NAIA to Division II, the Lady Chaps (34-0) are undefeated and playing for a Division II national championship against Alaska Anchorage (38-2), which also will be playing in its first title game.
Lubbock Christian would become the third Division II school to finish an undefeated season.
''I think it's really cool just to be a part of that foundation that got to start off the DII program, and hopefully we'll come back in a few years and get to see what work Coach Gomez has continued to do,'' said Nicole Hampton, the team's point guard. ''But we're just thankful to be here and to be together as a team enjoying this journey.
The Seawolves come into the game with a Division II record 38 wins and are making their 15th NCAA Tournament appearance.
MAYHEM: Anchorage is known for a pressing, transition style of basketball it calls Mayhem. They force an average of 18 turnovers a game, but average 17 turnovers themselves.
''We come at them at waves, and our philosophy is you have to play as hard as you possibly can,'' said coach Ryan McCarthy.
McCarthy may have the toughest recruiting trips of anyone in the nation. He got guard Gena Buchanan, for example, from Galena, Alaska, a town with fewer than 500 residents, and no roads.
''A lot of the places where I have to go in state, there's no road to get there,'' he said. ''And you're either taking a boat up the Yukon River or ferry down to Kodiak or flying in a bush plane to get to where Jenna lives. I've done clinics up in Point Hope where it's 3:00 in the morning and kids are still jumping on trampolines on dirt roads and riding in an ATV from their roadway, which they call an airport to the gym. So locally that's what it's like.
LEARNING FROM LOSING
Lubbock Christian leads Division II in margin of victory, beating teams by an average of 29 points a game. But that's not how the Lady Chaps began the season. They played UConn and lost, 95-39 in the exhibition season.
''I appreciate it so much, because it was the best drubbing we have ever taken, said coach Steve Gomez. ''It got us off to a good start learning how to compete with the best.''