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Davis, California

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Column: Truly happy ending

A coach with a glaring omission on a laundry list of accomplishments.

A core of players who had come oh-so close twice before, but had yet to reach the next level.

It’s a Hollywood-esque story you won’t see in a theater near you. Good thing the elements of this tale happened just down the street.

The UC Davis women’s basketball team finally did it – they won a Big West Conference title and qualified for the NCAA National Tournament. And, boy was it a storybook run.

The Aggies, the unanimous Big West favorite, had a dominating early season, struggled in league play and turned it on at the perfect time. UC Davis won its last six games en route to its first Big West Tournament title. To cap off the magical run, the Aggies will be going dancing.

Coach Sandy Simpson, arguably the school’s most well-liked coach, in his final year, finally did it. Senior’s Paige Mintun and Heidi Heintz, in the final year of their prolific Aggie career, cleared the hurdle. The Aggies are going to the NCAA National Championship Tournament.

From the start of the season, every player wanted to win the conference tournament for Heintz, for Mintun and especially for Simpson.

“It feels so good to reach our goal, and to get to the NCAATournament,” said tournament MVP Mintun. “The thing we talked about at our team meeting was that we wanted to send [Simpson] off on a high note, and it means everything to [Heintz and me].”

This honor could not have come to a better team. I’ve stated my appreciation for Simpson and everything he does. Mintun is one of the hardest working athletes on campus. The same could be said about Heintz. Every player on the squad has her place and they fit like a glove.

Being able to watch this team grow and progress has truly been fun to watch. But the season isn’t over yet.

This will be the first time a UC Davis basketball team has qualified for the Division I tournament. The Aggies will find out their seed this afternoon at 4 p.m. ESPN.com’s Charlie Creme predicts UC Davis will earn a 15-seed in the Dallas Bracket. Creme predicts the Aggies will play against possible 2-seed UCLA.

This is a much better match-up than another predictor thinks – a first round game against No. 2 ranked Stanford.

The Aggies already played the Bruins this season, losing 65-49. It’s safe to assume this UC Davis team is much better than the one that met UCLA at Pauley Pavilion earlier in the year. If Creme’s predictions are correct, UC Davis will be a very dangerous low seed.

Maybe the Aggies win a game in the tournament. Maybe they make it onto Sportscenter. Maybe they become the “Cinderella” team of the women’s bracket.

Regardless, it will all be another chapter in the movie-like season.

JASON ALPERT would like to give a major shout-out to sports writer Trevor Cramer for his excellent and dedicated work to the women’s basketball team. He represented The Aggie at the Big West Tournament and did a fabulous job. To talk UC Davis women’s basketball, email Jason at sports@theaggie.org.


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