Photo courtesy of Harrison Daily Times
Harrison, AR – Saturday, Kansas City Kansas was crowned as the 2019 NJCAA Division II Women's Basketball champion in Harrison, AR.
Prior to the tournament's start, the 16-competing teams gathered to share a meal and celebrate each other's accomplishments at the Tip-Off Banquet held on the campus of North Arkansas College. Players, coaches, team supporters, and community members gathered with the sole purpose of recognizing the female student-athletes who have competed since November for an opportunity to play for a national championship.
Dr. Robin E. Bowen, President of Arkansas Tech University, served as the keynote speaker for the banquet. Dr. Bowen gave advice to the young women which will aid in their success past their days as student-athletes. She encouraged them to be strong, confident women when starting their careers. Above all else, Dr. Bowen urged the 179-female student-athletes sitting in the room to support each other, to support other women, and to support a sisterhood in life.
Teams that would become rivals the next morning, then had an opportunity to get to know each other off the court and make connections that will last long after the five-day tournament.
The Tip-Off Banquet would not be the only example of female empowerment on display at the 2019 NJCAA Division II Women's Basketball Championship. Oftentimes forgotten in the sport of basketball is the role of the referee. Fifteen basketball officials from California to Florida and everywhere in between had been nominated to work the tournament and be a part of something that has never happened before, a complete sisterhood of officiating. The fans and spectators began to see the trend - all the officiating crews were women.
The officials arrived with experience ranging from three to thirteen years, and worked the last year in all levels ranging from junior college to NAIA, NCAA Division I and II, and even the NBA G League. According to Rachael Melot, the tournament's head official, the 2019 NJCAA Division II Women's Basketball Championship, was the first Championship tournament, at any level, to have all-female officials. The tournament demonstrated that the women's game does have highly qualified and eligible female officials and it serves as a beacon for young basketball players to see alternative ways to continue to participate in the game they love, long after they finish their time as student-athletes.
Melot, author of The Ten Commandments of #SuccessWithoutApology, and more than 20 years of officiating experience, stated, "I am so proud of the assignors who nominated the officials and the hosting organization for the NJCAA DII Women's Basketball Championship tournament for marking history in 2019 by having the first all-women officiated tournament. This public display serves as a way of truly carrying out the message of women empowerment and mutual support". By the end of the tournament the officials were just people refereeing the game, not women, not females, just referees.