Jennifer Martin, Jr. F (Asheboro, N.C./Eastern Randolph HS)
Everyone finally got their McDonald’s fix this morning after demanding it since our arrival in Alaska. Around 9:30 we departed out for our 10am shoot-around to prepare us for our game against Cameron at 5pm. Shots were flying as we had a very energetic hour gym session, getting used to UAA’s lose rims, as well reviewing Cameron’s full court press. We picked up Subway as a pregame meal as we headed on back to the hotel to rest up before tip-off. There was quite a wait before the departure to the gym where some of the players went around downtown to shop and others stayed in their rooms. I stayed in the room with my roommates Madison Lennox(#24) and Lauren Ward(#10). We rested up before the game by eating our pregame meals, followed by cuddling up in our beds and watching Beastly on MTV. Departure for the gym was at 3:15pm, not before we got a team picture with the hotel’s Christmas trees for our friends and families back home and in Brevard.
The energy was there tonight for the team. You could tell that everyone was ready to play hard and compete. Kadijah Watts(#11), Alexis Williamson(#21), and Chelsea Turner(#23) came up with a team chant before the game to keep the team momentum up, and to match the energy Cameron’s team showed the night before. We jumped on the Aggies being the first team to score thanks to a lay-up by Hardara Bannister(#22), and kept the pressure up for the first part of the first half. Cameron was a quick-transitional team, and extremely energetic on the court. They were smaller than Saint Leo, but still had height in the post. We ended the first half only down by 16 points, and had a positive half-time speech by Coach Reid, who advised us to jump out in the second half and rekindle the energy we had at the beginning of the game. During the second half we came together as a team executing our plays and getting defensive stops, but unfortunately our shots weren’t falling as well as we needed in order to close the gap Cameron had made in the first half. We fell to the Aggies 76-55 but we fought hard and played well. Alexis Williamson(#21) and Lauren Ward(#10) got to play in their first collegiate game, with Alexis getting a great block against one of the Aggies.
We ended our night getting meals from the Lucky Wishbone, a local restaurant. A relaxing day is in store for the team tomorrow. Some players are going dog sledding, while others plan to spend the day exploring the malls and different shops of downtown. We head back home tomorrow night to reunite with our families for our short Christmas break, and all plan to make the last few hours in Alaska the best we can. I think the entire team has enjoyed their visit here to Anchorage, but we’re all anxious to return home to our families! Plenty of prayers for us for our safe return home, and Happy Holidays to all our Tornado friends and families!
Madison Lenox, Fr. G/F (Raleigh, N.C./Wakefield HS)
Today was our first game day in Alaska. We had to wake up at 10 a.m. for our 11 o’clock shoot-around at the University of Alaska Anchorage. After shoot-around the team went back to the hotel to rest. Some of the team walked into downtown to buy souvenirs for their friends and family members. At around 2:00, Coach Reid brought the team Subway, chips, and Gatorades for lunch so that we would have a lot of energy for our tough match up.
After we ate, we arrived back at the university about an hour before a game because we had only been allowed 30 minutes for warm-up. As a team, we are more accustomed to an hour warm-up, but we managed to adjust by stretching on the floor of the locker room. We had never heard of these teams, but we learned quickly that the South Atlantic Conference isn’t the only conference with fierce competition. In the game today, we played Saint Leo (Florida). They are nationally ranked and one of the few college women’s basketball teams in the nation that have remained undefeated this season. To our disappointment, we were unable to end their winning streak. It was disheartening to lose the game, but the experience will help us move on with the competition we will face later this season. We now know more things we will need to improve on as a team which is very helpful because we're still young. After our game, we were able to watch the other two teams in the tournament, the University of Alaska Anchorage and Cameron University (Oklahoma). After watching them play, we should be more prepared for Saturday's game. The team looked very aggressive and energetic, which will make them challenging competition for us. We will have to match or even exceed their energy and aggression on the court. All of the teams in this tournament seem to have a good feel for playing with one another. I plan for us to grow to that point as a team, and this trip to Alaska should help us reach our goals for this season.
After watching a half of the game between UAA and Cameron, the team and staff were starving. We were lucky enough to go to one of the most popular restaurants in town, Moose’s Tooth. The place was packed and we were fortunate enough to get a table pretty quickly. All 13 of the players crammed at one table because everyone wanted to be together and didn't want to have to split into groups at different tables. There was no complaining about food tonight though! We had more than enough pizza, and we realized why the place was so popular. Shelby Wolfe (#33) ate all of the garlic off of one of the pizzas, which made her roommate and bedmate for the trip, Kyley Clark (#34), dread the rest of the night. Dinner was lots of fun with the whole team eating and laughing with one another. Personally, team dinners are my favorite part of team trips, and it isn’t because the food is way better than what we have in the cafeteria at Brevard. Eating together makes it more real to me that the team really is a family at heart. Hopefully tomorrow we will come together as a team and pull out a victory to go home with over the holidays.
Chezney McJunkin, Sr. G (Easley, S.C./Pickens HS)
This morning I woke up at 6:45am to what I thought was Hadara’s phone alarm, so I started tapping her telling her to turn the alarm off, I soon realized that the noise was coming from the other side of the room; it was Shelby Wolfe’s loud alarm. Shelby, Kylie, Hadara, and I slowly began to crawl out of bed and start getting ready for practice. We all met in the hotel lobby at 7:30 and headed out to get on the vans. I ride in Coach Reid’s van and little did we know when she mashed the pedal …we were stuck in the snow! It was a long and funny process of trying to get the van unstuck. Taylor Hiatt, Shelby Wolfe, Coach Hudson, and a friendly stranger helped by pushing the van. I stayed in the warm van and watched them pushing and busted out laughing when I saw Shelby fall face forward into the snow after using all her strength to get the van unstuck. Thankfully, we made it to practice and got in a good workout!
After practice we came back to the hotel for a quick snack then bundled up into our warmest attire and set out for Girdwood Ski Resort. Along the way we stopped and picked up Brevard College alum Sarah Carlos Shelton (Class of 2011). We drove past the most beautiful snow covered mountains, and we all had our phones out trying to get pictures. We stopped at a pull off and everyone climbed out of the vans and started capturing the scenery on their phones. We were getting pictures made in the snow with the pretty background and as we were taking Coach Reid’s picture she slipped and fell straight on the ground. Obviously the whole team, including myself, started laughing. Little did I know that seconds later the whole team would be laughing at me… for the same reason! I was getting on the van while talking to Hadara and slipped and fell straight on my back. I guess what goes around comes around.
We finally made it to Girdwood and took the Tram up the mountain. It was so fun and the view was absolutely breathtaking. I was in awe when we got to the top and looked out to see snow covered mountains and trees like I had only seen in calendar pictures. We stayed up there for a while and took in the scenery and threw snow balls at eachother. We went back down the Tram and had lunch at the Bake Shop. We ate delicious soup, bread, and dessert. On our way back to the hotel we stopped to look at the Portage Glacier. Everything we saw was incredible and I feel very fortunate to be here in Alaska with my team.
We arrived back at the hotel and got ready to go eat dinner at Sarah’s house. Sarah and her family were very welcoming and fixed us a wonderful dinner. We all had a great time eating and talking together! We then headed back to the hotel and are now hanging out in our rooms. We had an exciting day and are excited about our game day tomorrow!
Taylor Hiatt, Jr. G/F (Mount Airy, N.C./Mount Airy HS)
I woke up this morning at 4:30 a.m. (8:30 a.m.) and to my surprise, my roommates Lynsey Crisp (#3) and Katie Williams (#12) woke up around 6:30. We all talked for a while sat around wondering how cold it was outside until we had practice at 11:30. The coaches went to the grocery store to get food for breakfast and lunch and to pick up the vans. I texted Tuccoa Brackett (#13) to see how her surgery went and she told me that she was home and everything went well. I’ve been sending her pictures of Alaska when I can.
We gathered our practice gear and went to the gym. The roads here are covered in packed snow and people drive like it doesn’t bother them at all. We got to the gym and put our shoes on and began practice. I learned what my dad had always talked about when he said he had jetlag, and I’m glad we have two days to get ready for our game. We finished practice and headed back to the hotel. We went to eat at a restaurant called Humpy’s just down the street for dinner and then went to an Alaska Aces professional hockey game at 7 p.m. to finish out our first day in Alaska. Needless to say I’m exhausted but very blessed to see this beautiful place that some people only get to see in pictures.
I pulled an all-nighter trying to stay awake until the drive to Charlotte Tuesday morning at 3:45am. We all piled in the gym lobby waiting for our vans to arrive. I didn’t have the jitters until we were going through security, and I started asking the coaches a million questions about what all I needed to grab out of my bag and what I could leave. Going through security is like getting interrogated by your parents (terrifying). I was able to calm down and grab some Chex Mix and water from one of the many stores in the Charlotte airport. I talked to coach Hudson about what would come next in trying to prepare myself. I heard them call out for my group and I was completely calm until I saw who was sitting beside me. Not only was this my first plane trip, but it was also Katie Williams’ first trip (#12), and she was sitting next to me on this tiny plane. Naturally, Katie and I began talking about what-if scenarios and freaking ourselves out. The flight attendants said that the door was closed and we were preparing to go down the runway. Katie and I clung tight to the chairs with our hearts are pounded and our ears starting to pop on takeoff. A feeling of nausea and a huge weight came over me and I wanted to pass out. However, I held it together and looked at the amazing view to distract myself. Katie and I finally calmed down after being in the air for a while and the next thing we knew we were about to land in Chicago. I soon realized that the takeoff and landing were the worst parts flying.
When we arrived in Chicago it was snowing and freezing cold. We grabbed our bags and walked around the O’Hare airport in Chicago trying to find a food court. We finally found one with multiple options and decided to stop there. The majority of us ate at some Japanese place and others got McDonald’s. After we ate, we found somewhere to lie down and relax because our layover was from 9-4 p.m. Some of us went in the bookstore and others watched movies. Jennifer Martin (#25) and I walked to Starbucks and grabbed some coffee to warm ourselves up. We then found outlets, because what college student can go without their phone for more than 30 minutes? We drank our coffee and talked about the flight to Alaska and how long it was going to be, talked about basketball, and finished with talking about school. We started getting our stuff together and finding our gate shortly after that because our flight was supposed to leave at 3:45pm. Naturally that didn’t happen. I think we finally took off around 4:30pm and the pilot announced that the flight would take 7 hours.
This plane was much bigger so I was more at ease. I had a television to watch but of course people charge you where they can to get extra money so I had to pay the $7.99 to watch movies during what felt like an eternity just to get to Alaska. We landed in Alaska around 9 p.m. (1 a.m. in NC). We waited for the van from the hotel to get us and as soon as you walked outside it was incredibly hard to breathe and ridiculously cold. The pilot said it was -6 degrees Fahrenheit when we landed. We got to the hotel and waited for our pizza from Pizza Hut, and then we straight to bed.