WBB Closes Program With Appearance at National Tournament


Courtesy of Elizabeth Hartel

The Lady Gators ended their season and program with a loss to Gulf Coast State in the second round of the NJCAA national tournament in Lubbock.

Facing their final season before closing down the women’s basketball program, the San Jacinto College Lady Gators decided they were not fading away, they were going to “own it.”

Own it they did when they blasted past Hutchinson College 62-51 last month to clinch the first-ever National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) national tournament game in the team’s history, before falling the following day to two-time defending champs Gulf Coast State College, 54-45.

This was the team’s second appearance at the national tournament; they advanced for the first time last year. The women’s basketball program was shuttered, along with the men’s basketball, soccer, and volleyball programs, as a result of a decision handed down by the College’s Board of Trustees.

Although sad, Head Coach Kayla Weaver said the team did not dwell on the pending closure, rather she and her players preferred to concentrate on the legacy they would leave behind.

“We focused on how we wanted to be remembered and what we could control,” she said. “But it is something we have known about, and that is why our motto was ‘own it.’”

The squad knew they would face an emotional last season, but they did not foresee other challenges like the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey that left many players stuck on the third floor of their apartments for a week. Weaver points to that time, and the women’s genuine caring for one another for the cohesion that brought them wins on the court.

“This season was all about our players,” she said. “This season’s success is because of them and their ability to overcome any adversity that came their way.”

Weaver took over the program when Head Coach Mike Madrid left after one year on the job following a historic 2016-2017 season that took the Lady Gators to their first national tournament appearance. But having served as an assistant coach last year, she said she knew first-hand the “culture was in great shape.” 

“Coach Madrid did a great job here,” she added, “and I was fortunate to be a part of it, so I learned a lot working with and playing for him.”

Although she is exiting her role as head coach, according to a statement released by Chancellor Dr. Brenda Hellyer last semester, Weaver will return in the fall as part of the college preparatory math faculty, a position she held before becoming an assistant coach under Madrid. But before swapping the court for a classroom, Weaver received an additional nod for her tenure with the team when she was named District L Coach of the Year.

Even as accolades continue to come her way, Weaver prefers to redirect praise toward her players who she said “owned it” all the way through a challenging last season, right down to their historic final game.

“Credit to the girls because they did just that,” she added,” and left their mark as the greatest team to ever play here.”


Madison Neal contributed to this report.