Highs’ season ends in postseason accolades

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Matt Halberg

Following the team’s second-place finish in the regular season, Radford University women’s basketball Head Coach Tajama Ngongba was awarded the title of Big South Coach of the Year for the 2010-2011 season. This was Ngongba’s third season with the team, and her first coach of the year honor.

“I was tremendously excited when I found out, I mean, really pumped,” Ngongba said. “Of course, with this being my third year, I almost couldn’t even believe it. I had to actually turn to my sister and ask her if they had just said my name.”

Ngongba received the honor at the end of the year conference awards banquet, held on March 10, the night before the Big South tournament began.

“Our team really turned it up this year,” Ngongba said. “I mean, there were so many great teams in the conference that we had to battle with. Our theme this year was ‘212’. At, 211 degrees, water is hot. At 212 degrees, it boils. We had to push it just a little bit further to get ourselves boiling on the court.”

The Highs pushed themselves the entire season, eventually finishing with a conference record of 11-5, which was good enough for second-place behind powerhouse Liberty University. The Highs achieved second-place despite a less than stellar start to non-conference play (3-11), and only having two senior starters in guard Denay Wood and forward Brooke McElroy.

“I was really excited about winning Coach of the Year as a way to cap off the regular season because it was a chance for the administrators to see that their hiring of me was a good hire,” Ngongba said. “Our program is moving in the right direction now, and hopefully we can get back to the days when we totally dominated the Big South.”

Despite winning an individual award on the eve of the Big South tournament, Ngongba made a point to stay humble and compliment her team as a whole, and also the front office of RU.

“It takes a group of people for one person to get that award, even something like coach of the year,” Ngongba said. “I really wanted to make sure that everyone knew that the award was for all of us. It’s the administrators, the coaches, the team and the scouting department. It was for all of us.”

Ngongba, who was hired by RU in May 2008 following assistant coaching stints at University of Richmond, Virginia Commonwealth University and her alma mater, George Washington University, is a former collegiate standout at GW and even spent two years in the WNBA from 1997-1998 as a member of the Sacramento Monarchs and Detroit Shock.

Despite a successful professional career, Ngongba is back in the college ranks. Only now, instead of scoring baskets and dishing out assists herself, she’s teaching others how to play the game she once dominated on many different levels.

The day after Ngongba received her coach of the year award, RU fell in the first round of the Big South Tournament to seventh seeded Winthrop University by a score of 38-59. The loss was by far the biggest upset in the Big South Tournament.

“Our loyal fans don’t want to hear why we didn’t get the job done, they just want to see the job get done,” Ngongba said. “It’s our job to bring this program back to where it was when it dominated the Big South, and I’m just glad to be a part of that effort.”