BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Head Coach Kim Stephens and her #3-seeded Glenville State University Lady Pioneers basketball team (35-1) won the school’s first ever national championship in any sport, beating the #5-seeded Western Washington University Vikings (25-6) by a final score of 85-72 this past Friday, March 25 in the NCAA Division-2 Women’s Basketball Tournament final, held at the Bill Harris Arena in the Birmingham, Alabama Crossplex.
In a game that started out as a back-and-forth affair through the first three quarters of play, the Pioneers seized control in the fourth quarter and never looked back, sealing a win of great historic significance to not only Glenville State College, but for the Mountain East Conference as a whole, being the conference’s first national championship in Women’s Basketball.
At the center, orchestrating this program’s meteoric rise, was Coach Stephens. The Parkersburg-native and former Pioneer basketball captain, has compiled an overall record of 123 wins to just 20 losses in her six years at the helm of the Pioneer Women’s Basketball program, including a 35-1 mark this year. The Pioneers’ thrilling tournament run sealed Division-2 National Coach of the Year honors for Stephens, a well-deserved honor for one of the game’s most brilliant young minds. Stephens coached the Pioneers to Division-2’s top scoring offense this season. As tournament time rolled around, Coach Stephens had helped shape the Pioneers’ offense into a fine-tuned, well-oiled scoring machine, breaking the single-tournament record for total points, netting 525 points over their six game run en route to capturing the national championship.
The Vikings largely kept the Pioneers’ half-court offense in check but struggled to keep them from dominating in the open-court, as the Vikings committed 25 turnovers that directly led to 30 Pioneer points in transition. Stephens had amassed quite a group of talent for the Pioneers, led by tournament MVP Re’Shawna Stone, who dropped 25 points, while pulling down 6 rebounds in an intense championship game setting against the Vikings. Stone was complemented by fellow all-tournament team member Zakiyah Winfield, who dropped 23 points and 6 rebounds. As they have all season, the Pioneers deployed a “platoon” substitution method in the championship game, ensuring that their deep-bench and well-conditioned players would become a factor down the stretch after the press had worn the Vikings down all game long. Coach Stephen’s strategy helped Glenville State pull away in the game’s final minutes.
Winning the national championship is particularly significant for Coach Stephens brought her journey within the Pioneer basketball program, the former team captain, turned assistant coach, turned head coach led her former team to new heights while roaming the sideline. Regardless of what the next step ends up being for Coach Stephens, this win ensures her name and the names of those on her team are forever etched into the basketball lore of the Mountain State.