Cal Poly Pomona Coach Darlene May has fond memories of the first time her women's basketball team won the NCAA Division II national championship, in 1982.
But she will savor the second championship a little longer.
"I've had a national championship before and you can never replace the first one, but this group really jelled as a team this year," said May, whose team captured the title with an 80-69 victory over top-ranked Central Missouri State last week in Springfield, Mass.
"In the first championship, we had two or three superstars who carried us, but this time we had 12 kids working their guts out. It makes the title really sweet."
Since women's teams joined Division II four years ago, the basketball playoff tournament has looked more like the Cal Poly Pomona Invitational.
Never Missed Playoffs
The Broncos have been to the playoffs every year, played in the championship game three times and won the title twice.
"Some teams never even get to the final four, and we win it twice," May said. "It's a fantastic feeling."
This championship wasn't exactly etched in stone, however.
Midway through the season, when the Broncos had a 10-7 record, few people would have ventured to guess that Pomona would wind up as champion.
It was after the seventh loss, a conference-opening defeat by Chapman, when May decided that a change in coaching philosophy was in order.
"This team did not respond well to pressure," she said. "So we decided that we had to be a little more laid back. When we kicked back a little we started to play well."
That's putting it mildly. After the Chapman game, the closest game for the Broncos was a 9-point victory over Chapman in the second round of the Division II playoffs.
Won Last 16
The Broncos won their last 16 games by an average of 20 points to coast to the championship.
In postseason play, Pomona defeated San Francisco State, 78-39; Chapman, 63-54, and St. Cloud State (Minn.), 71-59, to reach the final four.
May said her players were more confident than she heading into the semifinals in Springfield. "I felt that we had the quality players but I knew we had to have some breaks to win. I don't think we got any breaks, but we won anyway."
Pomona didn't need breaks to win its semifinal game against Hampton Institute of Hampton, Va. The Broncos mounted a 47-23 lead at the half and waltzed to a 91-51 victory over a team that had averaged about 90 points a game.
"We just did such a great job of controlling the tempo of the game, and Vickie (Mitchell) played a great all-around game," May said.
The coach said that was her team's best game of the season and gave the Broncos confidence going into the championship game against Central Missouri State.
Good Was Good Enough
"We watched the Mercer-Central Missouri game and our kids left saying we were going to win the national title."
May said her team did not play a great game in the finale, but good was good enough.
The key player in Pomona's title drive was 6-0 junior forward Mitchell, who was named the most valuable player of the final-four playoff. Mitchell, who averaged team highs of 12.8 points and 10.6 rebounds this season, scored 53 and grabbed 28 rebounds in the final two games.
"She was simply unbelievable," May said. "She has all the tools. The only thing she doesn't have (to be a Division I player) is maybe a little more height.
"If she had two more inches, we would have never seen her at Cal Poly. She's a money player. We needed to win and she just refuses to lose."
Other standouts in Springfield were seniors Kelly Fraser, a 5-11 guard, and Sheri Jennum, a 5-10 forward. Fraser had 8 points and 13 assists in the title game and Jennum had 15 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds. Both were named to the all-tournament team.