The Legends room at the Jack Stephens Center buzzed with activity. Nearly 80 longtime fans and supporters of the athletic department gathered with Little Rock (LR) women’s basketball team to see who they would play in the first round of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament.
“I have had season tickets since 1999,” said Stan Dobson.
Dobson made the almost eight-hour trip to New Orleans for the Sun Belt Tournament and then hurried back for the watch party.
A hush fell over the room as ESPN began announcing matchups for the first games of the tournament.
Starting with the Albany regional bracket, Connecticut, the number-one seed, would face St. Francis, while number-two South Carolina would face North Carolina A&T.
Then, ESPN announced Florida State would take the third seed. Their opponent, the 14-seed Little Rock Trojans.
The room erupted in thunderous cheering.
Junior forward Ronjanae DeGray busted into a dance.
“We can beat ‘em,” said her twin sister and fellow junior forward Raeyana DeGray.
“Looking forward to it,” said Steve McClellan, UA Little Rock Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration. “Puts our name in front of people who don’t normally see it.”
Coach Joe Foley was the man of the hour.
Coach Foley led the LR women to a 23-9 record and ninth Sun Belt tournament appearance which culminated in the team’s fifth invite to the NCAA tournament.
The team’s supporters shared their thoughts with the Forum.
“Coach Foley is the best women’s basketball coach in the universe,” said Betty Stanley.
Impressed with his calm demeanor during the very close Sun Belt Championship, Don Riggin was “tickled to death for Coach Foley.” He shared the sentiments of many supporters: proud of the women, proud of Coach Foley.
“Real proud of Joe and the team,” said Bev Hargraves. “Strong non-conference pays dividends later on.”
A couple of fans had hoped for a closer opponent, maybe in Texas, but for the players and Coach Foley, it made no difference who they would play.
“Play our game either way,” said Kiara Scott, a junior guard.
“This late in the season, go with what got you there,” said Foley.