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Local colleges

Saint Francis' pep rally

Saint Francis brought the NAIA Div. II women's basketball trophy to the Hutzell Center on Wednesday. The Cougars finished the season 38-0 with a 75-68 win Tuesday over the College of Ozarks in the NAIA title game iin Sioux City, Iowa.

Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette
The University of Saint Francis women’s basketball team arrives at Hutzell Athletic Center on Wednesday night to a welcome from fans after winning the NAIA Division II title Tuesday in Sioux City, Iowa.

Perfect reception for champions

Saint Francis got a chance to celebrate another national championship with friends, fellow students and family at a pep rally Wednesday at the Hutzell Center. Four years after the men’s team won the title, the Cougars’ women’s basketball team brought home the NAIA Division II national championship trophy.

When the charter bus pulled up in the gym’s parking lot, the players, coaches and support staff were greeted on the sidewalk with cheers before walking through the doors with the “National Champions” banner hanging above them.

Once inside the gym, the celebration continued with comments from Saint Francis coach Gary Andrews and athletic director Mike McCaffery.

“You can’t ask for a better season,” Andrews said. “We definitely proved we were the best team.”

The honors didn’t stop for the team as senior guard Skylarr Shurn was named the NAIA National Player of the Year, and Andrews won the Phyllis Holmes national Coach of the Year Award. Sophomore Brooke Ridley joined Shurn as a first-team NAIA All-American.

“There is no better way to go out, national champions and player of the year,” Shurn said. “I couldn’t have done it without my teammates. I am just happy to be a part of this program. I am glad to bring the championship back home to share with everyone.”

It just added to the perfect season, concluded Tuesday for the Cougars with a 75-68 win over the College of the Ozarks in Sioux City, Iowa. Saint Francis (38-0) was the first NAIA Division II team with an undefeated season since 2009.

“I don’t know if we ever felt pressure,” Andrews said. “We just tried to find a way to win, no matter who we were playing.”

Shurn scored 30 points in the title game and was named tournament MVP.

“It was a crazy ride,” said senior Jenelle Wilson, a Norwell product. “There were times when we had our ups and downs, but we got through it. I never pictured us where we are here today. To be a part of something like this, not many people can say they are a part of this. I won’t ever forget this.”