Above all else, Oklahoma City University’s Rateska Brown wanted to win.
That is what drew her away from Temple, where she played three years and was chosen the American Athletic Conference’s sixth player of the year, and sent the Alvin, S.C., native to Oklahoma City to join the defending NAIA Division I champion Stars.
Now, fewer than 12 months after leaving the Division I ranks, Brown’s decision paid off as she helped Oklahoma City repeat as national champions with an 80-63 victory over Campbellsville (Ky.) on Tuesday at the Independence Events Center. The Stars finished with a 30-2 record, including 30 wins in the last 31 games.
“Coach said that last year that it was an unexplainable feeling, and I just can’t explain it,” Brown said. “We were on a mission from the beginning and we got it done.”
Brown led Oklahoma City with a game-high 29 points off a nine-for-20 performance from the field and picked up first team all-tournament honors along the way. That added to her NAIA All-American accolades from the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, which she received at a team banquet before the tournament started.
“She has performed day-in-and-day-out every game we have played,” Oklahoma City coach Latricia Trammell said. “She has been consistent and I am so proud that she is going out as a national champion.”
Although it is only Trammell’s third season, the winning culture dates back to 1988, when Oklahoma City won its first of its NAIA-best eight titles.
“They were winners,” Brown said. “They wanted to win and I knew Coach was going to do whatever it took. I was all about it and I was going to give 100 percent.”
Brown was one of six new players that joined the team this year, and one of two Division I transfers. The other was Marisha Wallace, who left Oklahoma State. Wallace had 11 points and nine rebounds in the championship game.
“I love talent of course, that is a great part of recruiting, but I have to find talent that works hard and has that blue-collar attitude,” Trammell said. “Every one of these kids fills that role.”
Ouleymatou Coulibaly converted a three-point play on Oklahoma City’s second possession to give the Stars the lead and they never looked back.
Coulibaly led the Stars’ attack in the paint, where they outscored the Tigers 20-10 in the first half, and had 13 points at the break on a six-for-eight performance from the field.
The Stars shot 47 percent and led by as many as 16 points before settling for a 39-23 halftime lead.
Coulibaly picked up where she left off in the second half with a basket on the first play. She finished with 19 points and pulled down a game-high 14 rebounds.
Campbellsville started to find a groove in the second half but was never able to cut the lead back to single digits. Lindsey Young led the Tigers with 16 points, including 14 in the first half.
“We wanted it,” Trammell said. “I knew we had to continue to rebound and do what we do best, which is get out in transition. I thought we did a really good job with that and did a good job of locking down on the three-pointers.”
The Stars won the rebounding battle 56-24 and capitalized on 16 turnovers by the Tigers for 19 points in transition.
The loss ended a historic campaign for Campbellsville, which advanced past the quarterfinals for the first time in 23 tournament appearances.
The Tigers finished with a 33-4 record for the third 30-win season in eight years under Ginger Colvin. She has been to the NAIA Tournament in all but one of her seasons leading her alma mater as the program’s second coach.
Lindsey Burd, Campbellsville (Ky.)
Grace Alonso de Armino, Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.)
Haley Newby, Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.)
Rateska Brown, Oklahoma City
A’Jha Edwards, Montana State-Northern
Tayla Foster, Bethel (Tenn.)
Caroline Owen, Campbellsville (Ky.)
Erin Legel, Great Falls (Mont.)
Ouleymatou Coulibaly, Oklahoma City
Kristin Karr, Westmont (Calif.)
▪ Championship Most Valuable Player: Yvonte Neal, Oklahoma City
▪ NAIA Hustle Award: Chelsea Craig, Campbellsville (Ky.)
▪ 2015 Phyllis Holmes Coach of the Year: Latricia Trammell, Oklahoma City