After a gritty, hard-fought performance in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) DIII National Championship Tournament, the 2015-2016 Roxbury Community College (RCC) Lady Tigers are the National Champions. This is the first-ever national championship win for the women’s program.
“I couldn’t be any prouder of this team,” says Dr. Valerie Roberson, president of Roxbury Community College. “It was heartbreaking watching so many of the same players come up short in last year’s tournament. Watching these players accomplish their ultimate goal in this year’s tournament has been a joy.”
The RCC Lady Tigers entered the national championship tournament as the #1 seed, with a 22-2 record. On Thursday, March 10th, the Tigers handily beat the #8 seeded Ocean County College, 86-63. The Lady Tigers then beat the #5 seeded West Georgia Technical College 61-54 on Friday, March 11th to earn a spot in the national championship game against Northland Community and Technical College (Minn.)
The national championship game proved to be one of the Lady Tiger’s most contested matches of the year. Neither team held a lead of more than 8 points throughout the contest. Roxbury found itself down 4 points to start the 4th quarter but battled back to take a 1 point lead 2 minutes in. A huge 3-pointer by Sophomore Amariah Brown put the team up by 5, and they held on for the 4 point victory. Taj Lewis led the Lady Tigers in scoring with 18 points and Alyssa Stewart had a great all-around game with 13 points, 12 rebounds and 7 blocks. In the end, the Lady Tigers perservered and earned the title of DIII National Champions by a score of 61-57.
“To bring a National Championship back home to Roxbury Community College is an awesome achievement for our student-athletes,” says Head Coach Mark Leszczyk. “It is a testament to their determination, character and their ability to believe that with hard work anything is achievable. It goes without saying that none of this could have been possible without the support of the RCC Community as a whole, but especially Erica Rivers, the director of athletics and student life.”
In addition to earning a national title, three of the Lady Tigers received individual awards for their performance during the tournament. Alyssa Stewart and Ryia Newsome were named to the “All Tournament Team.” Taj Lewis was named Tournament MVP.
“It’s really a bitter-sweet feeling,” says co-captain Ryia Newsome. “Knowing what we have gone through all season, including all of the obstacles we have overcome, makes this an amazing experience and something that I will never forget. At the same time, though, I realized this morning that I will never wear a Roxbury uniform again or play with teammates that have become my sisters for life.”
Perhaps the most impressive component of the victory is the fact that the Lady Tigers were able to secure the win with only six players on the roster. Of those six players, five will graduate this year, leaving Coach Leszczyk and his staff with a substantial rebuild.
After winning the championship title, our Lady Tigers and their coaches continued to receive accolades. Center Alyssa Stewart was recognized as the 2015-16 Spalding® NJCAA Division III Women’s Basketball Player of the Year by the NJCAA DIII Women’s Basketball Committee. This marks the second straight year that a Roxbury player has received the honor, as Tigers sophomore forward Tajmahnae Lewis earned the award as a freshman in 2014-15. Roxbury Community College Women’s Head Basketball Coach Mark Leszczyk was named the 2015-16 Spalding® NJCAA Division III Women’s Basketball Coach of the Year.
“This has been an amazing run with an amazing group of young ladies who believed in themselves, their teammates, and their coaches,” says Coach Leszczyk. “My Associate Coach Kisandra Ayanbeku had so much to do with this; without her, this would not have been possible. The Roxbury Lady Tigers are National Champions. UNBELIEVABLE!”