Women's basketball banquet a success

Women's basketball capped its season with a sold out banquet to honor the seniors and hand out awards. Read about it inside along with a list of the winners and the first half of Carol Ross' speech. Other half will come later.

There are many things that I am allowed to attend and take part in due to my job and more often than not banquets aren't the top of the line occasion that I look forward to over say a warm afternoon at Swayze Field.

But Sunday night was completely different.

The women's basketball program gathered to hand out awards and recognize the many supporters that had helped so much throughout the recent tremendous season. Food and fellowship highlighted the celebration as more than 250 people attended the event. Word going around the room was that it was the first sell out in the history of the occasion.

Marlin Williams, a WTVA sports anchor, served as the Master of Ceremonies, while coach Carol Ross' address about the Elite Eight season was a touching tribute with witty one-liners mixed in. Ross spoke about key points throughout so pulling quotes from the speech would not do it justice. Instead, the first half of the transcript is below. Second will be added later.

The Fast Break Club hosted the night and Vice President Deanne Moseley made a special announcement. The Carol Ross Women's Basketball Scholarship has been fully endowed in less than one year of fundraising. It is the first fully endowed scholarship for women's basketball as more than $100,000 has been raised in less than a year. Moseley thanked everyone who had a part in this successful endeavor. This especially included FedEx, which gave three separate gifts toward the campaign.

Near the close of the event, seniors Jada Mincy, Ashley Awkward and Armintie Price were all given a chance to approach the podium for remarks and to give thanks. Each quickly thanked family members that were in attendance and also the people that helped them along the way. Following, the trio presented gifts to the four coaches and received gifts from their teammates. Junior Danetra Forrest handed out a plaque and a scrapbook to each senior.

The banquet was ended in fine fashion with a video salute. The video featured highlights from all three seniors, highlights from the NCAA Tourney run and also locker room antics that the entire country came to appreciate thanks to ESPN's coverage.

Celebration is the word that best fits what Sunday was. It was a fitting finale for the three women who have achieved many victories and been instrumental in putting Ole Miss back on the women's basketball map.

I was able to personally get to know the team when I was their beat writer during the 2005-2006 season for The Daily Mississippian. So, it was an honor to witness the capping of this past season and the three seniors' careers. The Fast Break Club did an excellent job as host, and the attendees' enthusiasm never wavered during the three-hour affair.

We are Ole Miss, and Sunday was another reason why that is a special thing.

Below is the list of awards and the first half of Ross' address transcript. Second half will come later.

Most improved GPA: Carla Bartee

Highest GPA: Elizabeth Robertson

Iron award (strength and conditioning) Shawn Goff

Helping Hand (community service) Jada Mincy

Eleanor Shaw Super Sub award: Shawn Goff

Unsung Hero: Ashley Awkward

Defensive Stopper: Armintie Price

MVP: Armintie Price

Van Chancellor Coach's award: Armintie Price

Lady Rebel Award: Jada Mincy

Coach Carol Ross

This is a great opportunity for us to gather and a celebration of a terrific season by 14 outstanding young women. Anything special that happens, obviously, there are a lot of special moments that go into it. When I think back on this season, I think all the way back to Pittsburgh Pennsylvania in the NIT. There are a couple reasons we didn't want to be in Pittsburgh, one is the cold weather and the other is the NIT. That is not something that we aspired to do. It did give us an opportunity to realize it was not an experience we wanted to repeat. But in the locker room at the conclusion of last season, I looked into the eyes of the three soon-to-be seniors in Jada, Armintie and Awkward and I felt confident that we would not be repeating the NIT the next March and from that point on they led that team, they demanded, they led by example and they inspired a group of teammates to think bigger, work harder and get it done. That was the beginning of the terrific experience we just enjoyed which was the finish in the Elite Eight. I also think back to us playing a game at Houston early in the season. We lost in two overtimes and I blame that on Coach Chancellor because he gave the team a little talk before the game. Also while we are on Chancellor, I want you to remember how you treated me when I was at Florida.

After that double overtime game in Houston, we went on to have seven more overtimes. Luckily for us, we came out on top of most of those games.

Another defining moment happened in a three-overtime game at Rutgers. At that time, we were a team not quite sure of who we were and how we needed to play and if I recall, we were down 18-20 points, but I can't remember. Once it gets over 15 points, I quit counting. We struggled the first half and I don't know if it was the fit I threw in the locker room or something else but the team came out in the second half and played with such passion, competitive spirit and clawed their way back from 18 down to get the game into overtime. And then they scratched and clawed and got the game into a second overtime. And then to a third overtime. We ended up losing but it didn't really matter if we won or lost that game because it was probably the most successful game we played. We knew then what we were capable of. We knew what to expect from each other and the team found its personality.

We also had another moment along the way and it was at Tulane. I know the Tulane coach well and she asked me to come on down to Jazz Fest. I said that's great. She said well there is good news and bad news. The good news is that Jimmy Buffet is the headliner at Jazz Fest. The bad news is that you are going to play UT-Arlington. I said 'Who is UT-Arlington?' By the time we got through with them, my team knew who they were. They had beaten us and it was probably the low point of our season. But it was defining as well because it was the last game before we entered league play.

After we lost that game, I stayed in my room with Bourbon Street just around the corner. And I don't usually stay in my room when I have someplace good that I can go. I was in my room and Renee (Ladner) came banging on my door and said 'Are you alive?' I said 'Not sure.' I said that I wasn't coming out until I figured out the team and I haven't figured them out yet so do what you need to do with them.

But in my personal pity party in New Orleans I had an idea. I said we have to get to work and get down and dirty so I told the coaches that we were a blue-collar team. That is what we are, that is how we are going to play and that is what we need to do to survive. I said that we need to find a nasty, dirty old boot. I want the ugliest boot you can find. Lucky for us, Shana Kent found one of her husbands and then I ran to a couple of the guys here on campus and said that I want a ladder and I need 14 rungs on that ladder. And we want it by 5:00. So we found a dirty boot and we found a ladder and we stuck it in that locker room. We talked to the team about what that boot was symbolic of. We were going to put our work boots on every time that we stepped on the floor and we were going to take that work boot and kick peoples rear-end with it, one team at a time. And every time we beat a team in the SEC, we picked a player who exemplified that work ethic and they got to sign the boot and the boot got to take a step up the ladder. And then the boot started moving fast. We were 5-0 and that boot was flying up that ladder. And then I started coaching and we went to 5-2.

But you know, there are a lot of moments with our team, with our family, that you aren't aware of, just the end result.

And coaches will do anything to motivate their teams so we were at 6-2 and it was about 20 degrees outside. I told the team that if they won the next game, then the coaches were going to jump in my pool. Well they won, and we all went out to the house. We all lined up on the side of the pool and the team was on the other side taunting. We were in our bikinis in February. We counted to three and jumped in.

And then we had another great moment when Armintie Price was called home to Myrtle High to have her jersey retired. Again, another great litte moment for Armintie. The whole team went over had an opportunity to be a part of her high school life. That was good.

Another defining moment was on Senior Day when the game didn't go as hoped, but it let the seniors know that they didn't want it to end. The Ole Miss faithful came out in typical fashion and gave them a crowd and a congratulations that were worthy of them. We lost the game, but they turned a negative into a positive and became inspired and motivated.

It is interesting because I make my teams gather to watch the ESPN selection show whether they are planning on being announced or not. To punish them maybe and to watch other teams get pick, but this time we knew we were in.

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