National junior college women's basketball tournament returns to its roots

03/18/2014 2:23 PM

03/18/2014 2:23 PM

Johnson County Community College is the host of a national women’s basketball tournament this week.

The National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division II event is underway at the college at College Boulevard and Quivira Road. The 16-team, double-elimination event started Tuesday and will conclude Saturday with the championship game scheduled at 7:30 p.m.

Johnson County Community College (JCCC) is not a stranger to hosting a national women’s tournament.

In 1973, Orville Gregory, then the men’s basketball coach and athletic director, came up with the idea of being the host school of a national tournament for women’s basketball teams.

Gregory's JCCC men’s team had just missed out on making the national tournament. He reasoned that if the men could feel such disappointment at not making a national tournament, what must the women think when they don’t even have a national tournament.

That got Gregory looking into the possibility of hosting just such an event. He conducted a survey of all the NJCAA members to see if there was any interest in a national invitational women’s basketball tournament.

There wasn’t a lot of initial interest, but by the following year there was enough to set up the first tournament in 1975 on the JCCC campus. That eight-team tournament became the first national championship event for women offered by the NJCAA.

JCCC served as the host school for the first eight years and again in 2004. There were 12 teams in the 2004 tournament.

The present 16-team, double elimination tournament is the 10th time that JCCC has served as host for a national women’s basketball tournament. The field now consists of the 16 district winners throughout the United States.

“We are excited that the NJCAA decided to return the tournament to Johnson County Community College,” JCCC athletic director Carl Heinrich said. We believe it is an amazing opportunity to show off our program, the campus and the city of Overland Park.”

JCCC has a three-year contract to host the Division II tournament. The event will also be at JCCC in 2015 and 2016.

The Cavaliers won the national title in 2000 and were part of the field in 2004, but they did not qualify this season.

There will be a total of 26 games played in the tournament.

The closest schools to Johnson County are Highland in Kansas and North Central Missouri in Trenton.

The event will have an economic impact for Johnson County. Tournament officials estimate the impact from motel reservations alone will be around $183,000.

“The success of this tournament will be a direct result of the people putting it on,” Heinrich said. “I wouldn’t decide to take this on, if I didn’t have quality people to pull it off and make it a success.

“It is also a unique fact that the tournament is coming back to where it all began.”

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