DURHAM, N.C. (BP)–Hundreds of orange-clad basketball fans showed up to cheer on Campbell University’s Lady Camels March 18 as they made their first-ever appearance in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament.
Despite losing the game, 71-42, to the top-seeded Lady Devils from Duke University, players and fans of Baptist-affiliated Campbell University said it was a moment they will never forget — from a police escort to the tourney game by the Buies Creek Police Dept. after a rousing sendoff by the university.
“I was overwhelmed with the people who came from Buies Creek. We are very proud of our crowd,” coach Wanda Watkins told the Associated Press. “I’m sorry we didn’t give them more to cheer about.”
The Lady Camels (22-9) earned a berth in the NCAA tournament after winning the Trans Atlantic Athletic Association (TAAC) championship March 11. The victory marked only the second league title the women’s basketball team has won since moving to NCAA Division I 14 years ago.
Along the way to a conference championship, the Lady Camels recorded their fifth 20-win season under Watkins’ leadership during her 19 years as head coach.
“When it was announced who we were matched with, the place erupted,” Watkins said. “Duke has a great team and I congratulate them on their win. We were so happy to be at the tournament and to have the opportunity to take our program to the next level.”
Although Duke handed Campbell a loss, the Lady Camels lead their all-time series with Duke, 8-3. The last time the two teams met was in the 1984 season.
Campbell and Duke also share a few connections off the court. Shonta Tabourn, a four-year letter winner for the Lady Camels from 1989-93, is an assistant coach at Duke.
Prior to joining the Blue Devil staff, Tabourn was a graduate assistant for two seasons at Campbell. She ranks as Campbell’s career leader in assists and steals.
Duke coach Gail Goestenkors was also a featured speaker at Campbell University’s girls’ basketball school last summer.
Members of Campbell’s Lady Camels are Sara Moore, Megan Morrison, Cathy Smith, Alyssa Redick and Catie Redick of Virginia; Janice Washington of Louisiana; Syreeta Gambrell, Jarita Crump, Carrie Emory, Jill Cress, Kimberly Love, Lisa Rugg, and April Cromartie of North Carolina; and Jessica Stanley of Ohio.