|Photo by Larry Radloff, d3photography.com|
By Pat Coleman
HOLLAND, Mich. -- In a word: domination.
DePauw held a double-digit lead for all but the first six minutes of the game and cruised to the 2013 Division III women's basketball national title with a 69-51 victory against No. 22 UW-Whitewater on Saturday, March 16.
In doing so, the Tigers answered any questions as to whether their run though the North Coast Athletic Conference adequately prepared them for the NCAA Tournament. Even if almost nobody challenged them on the floor all season, there was one person who did: Coach Kris Huffman.
And they challenged themselves as well. Senior point guard Kate Walker, who finished her season with 122 starts in 122 career games, scored a team-high 17 points and shot 7-for-10 from the floor, determined not to let this season end with anything other than perfection.
"Each loss that happened freshman year was a stab in the heart, as well as sophomore year, and junior year losing to Carthage and not even getting past the first weekend," Walker said. "So much so that Ellie (Pearson) and Kat (Kathleen Molloy) and I would just talk about it and say no, never again, it's not going to happen.
"And we work, and work hard, and work together. Doing that with them was unreal and seeing it actually come together in a 34-0 season and national champions, there's no better way to end your senior year."
And they did so in an incredible way. The Tigers (34-0) rolled out to a 25-5 lead in the first half and never looked back. Whitewater was held scoreless for a span of 8:20 in the first half as DePauw built its lead, turning the ball over seven times in that span while getting off just six shots.
"I thought the way we started that game tonight, life was good and we needed every bit of that in the second half," Huffman said.
"They just took it at us from the start," said Whitewater coach Keri Carollo. "We were a little bit back on our heels to begin the game and once we finally got things going it was too late."
"I thought defensively we had a ton of ball pressure. We disrupted their flow," Huffman said. "We got hands on a lot of things. We're undersized in the post against just about everyone we play so ball pressure's been one way that we try to buy some time behind the basketball. I thought that was a difference to start the game."
Huffman, who won her 466th career game against 102 defeats, got called out by one of her players for not taking any credit.
"Coach Huffman never takes any credit and never will. And that's what makes her a fantastic coach," Walker said. "But all the credit goes toward coach. All three of the seniors, we have just an amazing relationship with coach. She's more than just a coach to all of us. She's almost like my mother at DePauw. It's not just basketball with Coach Huffman, it's everything. She actually loves us. I go in there with a huge personal issue and I just go in there and sob in coach's office and she'll just provide me with tissues and tell me everything's going to be ok. It's the ones that can just drill you on the basketball court and make you a fantastic player, but even more is the relationship she builds off the courts.
"Coach is always shoving the light away from her and pawning it off on other people, but in all reality, coach, you're the reason we're here, you're the reason we're 34-0 and national champions. I know you're shaking your head -- but stop it, stop it, because it is all Coach Huffman. She's a fantastic coach and we love her."