116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Kirkwood earned a trip to the NJCAA Division II women’s basketball national tournament with a 77-52 victory Saturday over Southwestern Community College in the North Central-A district final at Johnson Hall.
“We need to have the mindset that we are not done yet,” said Kortney Drake, an all-district tournament selection who scored 13 points and grabbed eight rebounds to go with three assists and a steal. “We just need to play our game and it doesn’t matter who we face, we just need to do our part and go all the way.”
Fellow sophomores Ashley Tull and Kemara Watson were also selected to the all-region team, helping Kirkwood improve to 21-1 as it prepares for the national tournament April 20-24 at Catawba Valley Community College in Hickory, N.C.
Drake, a sophomore from Wilton, says the Eagles are a team that is serious when it comes to dialing into scouting reports, but they still know how to laugh at each other and communicate in a positive way.
“I think we’re a goofy group,” Drake said. “We all bring different aspects to the team.”
While the success of the Kirkwood program drew Drake to the NJCAA Division II powerhouse, the 5-9 guard has been focused on one thing since arriving in Cedar Rapids.
“We want to win this thing and we know we can do it,” Drake said. “That’s been the goal ever since I got to Kirkwood and doing it with these girls would be everything.”
While Drake was a four-sport athlete at Wilton, she knew playing AAU ball that she wanted to focus on basketball in college while earning a degree in Elementary education.
“Kindergarten to second grade (would be best because) I love little kids,” Drake said. “I’ve always loved them and I would definitely explore part of the world, but make my way back to a small town. I really love small-town communities.”
While Drake said the team is “definitely going to do something together,” to “celebrate somehow,” she also knows the team needs to stay focused on the ultimate goal, a national championship.
“We need to continue to box out and rebound,” Drake said. “No second chances.”
With 16 teams bidding for the title, including 18-0 USC Salkehatchie and 22-1 Arkansas State Mid-South, the one-loss Eagles will be anxious to see where they are seeded when the pairings are announced at 10 a.m. Monday.
If the Eagles can win four more games and claim the NJCAA crown, “I would probably have tears of joy,” Drake said. “All smiles.”