CALIFORNIA, Pa. (KDKA) — Time runs out on the basketball court, and the celebration begins. California University of Pennsylvania has won the Division II Women’s National Championship.
California shows its appreciation with a parade through town on Tuesday. Coaches are in the convertible. Players wave from a hook-and-ladder truck.
“They feel like they’re celebrities right now,” says coach Jessica Strom. “Everybody’s so excited. I feel like the whole city of Pittsburgh is pretty excited.”
“We knew we had it,” says sophomore Miki Glenn. “And we just needed to stick it out the rest of the game. And we were just so happy.”
“You walk down the street, no matter where you go, congratulations,” says senior Kaitlynn Fratz. “People you never talked to before. It’s pretty special.”
The procession makes its way through the campus, where classmates cheer a team that has battled adversity that extends beyond their opponents on the court.
Before the triumph, came tragedy. The unexpected loss of a popular teammate. Halfway through the season, Shanice Clark died of a sickle cell blood trait. The team was devastated.
“I told them they could fall apart or come together at that point,” says Coach Strom. “And I think they just decided to fight and stick together, and see the benefit of hard work coming through.”
They believe that somewhere, their friend and teammate has joined the celebration.