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    The Rebel HD-2

Basketball

UNLV Lady Rebels Dancing Into NCAA Tournament

todayMarch 18, 2022 7

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UNLV Lady Rebels Dancing Into NCAA Tournament

By Donette Coleman

The UNLV Lady Rebels began their quest for the Mountain West Conference Championship with one goal in mind; cutting down the nets.

In order to achieve that goal, Coach Lindy LaRocque expressed to her team that they must win three games in three days.

The top seeded Lady Rebels did just that by defeating Utah State, Air Force, and Colorado State to claim their first ever Conference Championship in program history.

“We wanted to make history. We wanted to go to the dance,” said Essence Booker. “We knew that this was our way getting there and I feel like every single one of us had so much determination to win this game tonight.”

Essence Booker was named tournament Most Outstanding Player, while her teammates Nneka Obiazor and Desi-Rae Young joined her on the All-Conference Tournament team.

UNLV’s Coach Lindy LaRocque has experienced great wins throughout her basketball journey as a player and  Assistant Coach, but expressed this win gives her a different feeling because the team is so special to her.

“Really surreal. I’ve cut a few nets in my day. With this group it just, I would do anything for them because I know they would do anything for me,” said UNLV head Coach Lindy LaRocque. “And to say it is one thing, to believe it is another thing, and then to go out there and get the job done is something on a whole another level. And that’s what they did. So it was, it’s really special.”

As one of the youngest Head Coaches and in just her second season with the Lady Rebels, Coach Lindy LaRocque and her staff have completely changed the culture of the program.

The history making accomplishment secured UNLV an automatic entrance into the big Dance, the NCAA Women’s Tournament.

The Lady Rebels were able to play their Conference Tournament on their home court in a familiar atmosphere, however their next stop is the Mckale Center in Tucson Arizona where the atmosphere doesn’t favor them as much.

In the field of 68 teams, the Lady Rebels received the #13 seed in the Greensboro, North Carolina Region and will face #4 seeded Arizona on Saturday at 7pm on ESPN.

Arizona will be the first and only ranked team UNLV have faces so far this season.
The Lady Rebels are joined in their bracket with #1 overall seeded South Carolina, North Carolina and Stephen F. Austin.

It’s been 10 days since UNLV has played, but Coach LaRocque shared that her team’s effort, confidence and focus is still very high and ensured they will be taking the positive energy on the road to Tucson.

The Wildcats, who were last season NCAA Runner-ups are the favor to win, but the Lady Rebels are certainly preparing to upset and continue dancing into the second round.

“We think we can beat anyone, we believe we can win, especially this first round. We’ve got to take it one game at a time but we’re definitely confident going into this tournament,” said Essence Booker.

According to Coach LaRocque, the team doesn’t plan to deviate from their winning tools and will prepare as normal.

The match up features many storyline such as; the battle between the Thomas sisters featuring Sam of Arizona and Jade of UNLV, the return for UNLV’s Alyssa Brown who played for Sahuaro High School, as well as a homecoming for Rebels Assistant Coach Karlie Burris who played for Salpointe Catholic.

Senior Khayla Rooks is the daughter of Arizona Legend Sean Rooks, and Coach LaRocque is the only female player to have played in the Lute Olsen Elite Basketball camp at the McKale Center.

Regardless of the many ties to the state of Arizona, the Lady Rebels are all about taking care of business on the court in hopes of capturing their first National Championship.

The winner will advance to face the winner of North Carolina and Stephen F. Austin on Monday March 21st.

Written by: Ray Fletcher

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