Niagara Gazette — SANBORN — The area down the hall from the Niagara County Community College women’s basketball team’s locker room was more slip-and-slide than walking space by the end of Thursday.
The Thunderwolves accomplished a program-first, and then each player proceeded to celebrate with a collective dip in the school’s pool — uniform and all. When the swim ended, they stopped in the hallway outside the gym for a postgame chat with women’s coach Nate Beutel, dripping water all over the floor.
The talk ended and the first-ever NCCC women’s team to host the NJCAA Region III tournament — come next weekend — posed for a picture.
The Thunderwolves earned that distinction with a 63-60 home overtime win over Jamestown Community College in their regular season finale, giving them the regular season regional title. Had the result gone the other way, JCC would have hosted the region’s final four, which is set for March 1 and 2.
The men’s team continued the momentum built by women in the nightcap of a doubleheader against JCC, downing the Jayhakws, 88-66, in its final regular season contest.
In some ways it’s been gradual process since the inception of the program to get the women to what Beutel called a “program-changing moment.” Then again, the ascension has been rapid the last couple years considering the Thunderwolves went 1-24 two years ago. They improved to 13-15 last season, Beutel’s first on the job.
The Thunderwolves finish atop the region at 25-4, 6-2 Western New York Athletic Conference.
“We’re just making strides as a program,” Beutel said. “This is another step in our journey to where we want to be, which is at the top of the region. We can’t stop now. We want to complete the journey.”
It was business as usual for Jaclyn Welch, leading the Thunderwolves with 22 points while adding seven rebounds. As it also was for Kristine Ripson, who finished with 12 points, 12 rebounds, six assists, three blocks and three steals.