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April 4, 2016

Steve Gomez

Kelsey Hoppel

Nicole Hampton

Indianapolis, Indiana

Lubbock Christian - 78, Alaska Anchorage - 73

THE MODERATOR: Joining us on the dais from Lubbock Christian, head coach Steve Gomez, student-athletes Nicole Hampton and Kelsey Hoppel. We'll open with a statement from the coach and then questions for the student-athletes.

COACH GOMEZ: I'm thankful it's not a best-two-out-of-three or three-out-of-five type NBA series, because that team is really stinkin' good. They just kept fighting back, fighting back. Luckily that clock ran out because that's a team that defends so well, relentlessly, and they make good shots. They can score inside outside.

So we were fortunate to win today. We just had sort of a storybook year and just to fight off for 40 minutes a great team like that, I'm more humbled to this opportunity. I appreciate these seniors. I appreciate the freshmen that didn't even get in the game. We had 15 kids committed to each other. And, you know, it doesn't always happen this way, but this year it did. So we're very thankful.


Q. Nicole, two-part question. You were flirting with a quadruple double, 22 and 13, nine assists, seven steals, I believe it would have only been the second quadruple double in women's college basketball history. But, nonetheless, that last minute of regulation, where you have the runner and then you had the steal off a missed foul shot and then you sink two foul shots to ice the game, talk us through that last minute of the regulation?
NICOLE HAMPTON: Well, you know, first off, I gotta give credit to my teammates for all those assists and steals. They also set me up also for the points, too. But just that last minute looking at it they made a run there at the end. I knew if we let it go any closer, it could go either way.

So I just, you know, tried to settle our team down and just if you can make one big play, that can change the momentum going our way, then it makes a huge difference. And luckily things -- the ball fell into my hands, and it just worked out the way it did.

Q. Nicole and Kelsey, you sat out obviously last year with a chance -- with a dream you'd be able to compete, not just in the NCAA Tournament this year. What is it like to now have capped it off with a national championship?
NICOLE HAMPTON: I'm so glad we sat out or I wouldn't be here or we wouldn't. That was a good call by Coach Gomez. But, you know, there's literally no better way to end your career, your basketball career, especially getting to play under this guy right here. He makes everything just worthwhile. I'm just thankful for my teammates who cheer us on even if they don't get in the game or pressure us in practice, and obviously it pays off. So I'm just very thankful for this opportunity.

KELSEY HOPPEL: It's definitely a blessing for it all to work out this way. Like you never know sitting out and coming back for this year, you just never know what's going to happen. And it happened like this and I'm so thankful that it did with this team and these coaches, just like Nicole was saying, it's amazing to play with these girls underneath a coach like Coach Gomez. And I'm just so incredibly happy that we're national champions.

Q. For the seniors, you couldn't have imagined what happened, but could you talk about what's it like to be a senior and what you're leaving behind and just the incredible ride this season has been?
NICOLE HAMPTON: Yeah, I hope we built a foundation to start off DII for Lubbock Christian. And there's no better way to get these girls going into the next DII than the national championship but I have full faith they'll pick it back up in the coming years, and all the way from Kellyn to Fowler to Blair, I think each senior contributed throughout this season and really gave it all they have.

COACH GOMEZ: Do you all have any tissues right now, because I'm going to start to cry with these kids leaving.

KELSEY HOPPEL: I can't believe it's my last college game and just to end it that way with this team, it's just crazy how close we are and it's literally a family and you're leaving like that behind, and it's sad. You're leaving like your family and the game of basketball. But, I mean, no better way to end it on my senior year.

Q. Nicole, Coach McCarthy was high in his praise for you, said you're an All-American because you outwork everybody else on the floor. Could you describe what influences your life gave you that work ethic?
NICOLE HAMPTON: Well, I get told daily from this guy that I'm the slowest one on the court. So that's great motivation in itself. No, I'm just kidding. You know, my dad's a coach. My sisters both played at LCU. And I think just being in the gym every day with them, they constantly were playing pickup games or shooting drills or something. So I have to give a lot of credit to my family for constantly pushing me, but also just these four years at LCU, teammates have constantly been picking me up or rebounding, and just making me work hard in practice.

And like I said, they make the game so easy -- they make me look better than I really am. So I'm just thankful to have teammates who know the game of basketball just like I hope I do.

Q. Nicole, first half you guys was up by eight. The second half looked like you guys went to them, 1-2 trap more. Is that something you guys made adjustment at halftime?
NICOLE HAMPTON: Yes, Coach Gomez, he didn't want to change too much, because we were flowing pretty good the first half. But during our free throw, our big 3, he would yell to get into that zone trap. And I think it kind of caught them off guard when we just jump into that real quickly not staying in it all game long. So credit to him and the coaches for realizing that and understanding.

Q. Nicole, what was it like mentally kind of battling through that first, especially, quarter? Seemed like both teams were making some unforced turnovers. And then I guess the second part of that, what was it just like just watching at courtside? Seemed like trying to keep up with their defense was pretty mentally straining throughout the course of the game, might have caught up in the fourth quarter?
NICOLE HAMPTON: You know, at the beginning it's kind of hard to get all the nerves out in this huge arena with all our fans here. And so I think that kind of played a little factor and just realizing, hey, this is a national championship game but it is just a normal basketball game.

So once we overcame that, I think we kind of flowed into the game. And then their defense is incredible. They're in your pocket 24/7. You have to constantly be aware, not just physically, but mentally. And so there's really no way you can practice that without playing against them. So I have to give them a lot of credit for that.

Q. Both Nicole and Kelsey, at what point did it sink in did you feel that now we're the champions? Was it when there was 20 seconds left during that timeout, or did you try to block it out until the final buzzer?
NICOLE HAMPTON: Well, they made that run late, so you kind of -- we got a little glimpse, and then that probably was wrong for us to do. But it wasn't until I passed it up to Haley and I realized there was only two seconds left and I was thinking: We really did this. We're national champs.

KELSEY HOPPEL: That final buzzer goes off you want to wait until that sound goes off until you really celebrate. And that's when it hit me, too. It goes off and everything is just like swirling in your mind, a swirl of emotions. And it was like happy/cry. It was crazy. I probably made a horrible face. But, yeah, that's when.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you ladies. Questions for Coach.

Q. A lot in this week in Indianapolis, there's been a lot of discussion about parity in college basketball, which often focused on in Division I, and to lead to this question, you are the 13th different Division II national champions in the last 14 years. Does that speak to the parity not at the Division II level as far as women's college basketball goes?
COACH GOMEZ: I believe so. And there's so many teams, 317 or 320 teams. And there's just a lot of good teams. I don't know that there's any dynasties in DII. Obviously over the past years there's a lot of different champions. But it takes so many fortunate breaks to get to that point. You can have a great team, even tonight. This game could have shifted quickly late, and we would have had one loss they would have been in the final game.

So it's just hard to know all the different plays that go into making a championship season. I know we're not just that much better physically than other teams. We just had a lot of good things happen to us this year. We've been blessed. And you speak to that. I've told people about the Division I situation. It's not like UConn has genetically engineered players to be that much better. They are just that much better because they do everything excellent. I think we all should aspire to be that excellent in what we do as well.

Q. I believe when you took over the reins at LCU the team hadn't been to maybe a Final Four in the NAIA but definitely not a national championship game, back in '06 the first appearance. So can you just describe kind of what the process has been like from taking over back then and now, not only national championship, but the first year?
COACH GOMEZ: Yes, sir. The ten-year run, 10 years ago we played in the national championship NAIA and Nicole's sister was a freshman. So from her freshman year to her sister's to Nicole's senior year, ten-year span, good players have so much to do with that.

A lot of our success came not as a result of me as a coach. We got a new arena. It was easy to recruit to. The school was growing. It became an attractive place for student-athletes to go. It wasn't necessarily all of a sudden they had been terrible and I came and they were good. It took a while.

We just had to keep getting solid players to make good decisions and being unselfish. And it's a convergence of events this year that happened this way. We'd love to have an opportunity again in the future, but all of you all know, you've seen sports enough, it's hard to maintain that level.

Q. Coach Auriemma spoke very highly of you guys again last night sitting right there at that same table after their game. Did you get a chance to see, hear his comments? And what did that make you think?
COACH GOMEZ: People are sending us stuff all the time. Sometimes you don't even want to know what's going on. You almost can't avoid it these days. So, I mean, again, how humbling for them to even consider what's going on with us. They got our year off to a great start by showing us again what the best is like in pregame, every quarter, every minute of playing that hard.

So I wrote some of their players notes after that game, their coaches, just thanked them for that opportunity and hoped it would springboard us into this year of just mirroring that effort. I mean, just playing as hard as you can regardless of the score. And we had a lot of games this year, just like Alaska, that were not close but tried to keep a level of basketball play that was a high level and not just play just to get by.

And so that's awfully kind of them, and we look forward to seeing them play again tomorrow night.

Q. How did you take the pressure off your players being the No. 1 team being undefeated heading into this tournament?
COACH GOMEZ: Jordan, that's a good question because that sort of has been the question all year. People keep saying do you feel pressure. And these girls, I hope we can see by their personalities, they're just easygoing, good kids. They're not overwhelmed with the stardom or the streak. They just play the game to play the game and try to have a good position. In drills in practice we try to win a possession.

We've just gotta keep things at a small level. And you want to have a big picture in life. And we started our year, our first team meeting was at a cemetery by an open tomb. We wanted to start with the end in mind that this year is not going to define these kids. They won a national championship, but if that's the defining moment in their life it's going to be a pretty empty, frustrating life, and so we wanted to start with the end in mind.

It was neat. Last Sunday was Easter. We sort of finished the year at an empty tomb. So just to keep that focus. I think that alleviates pressure when you're not so consumed by the game.

Q. Going off of that, how do you as a coach try to embody the spirit to your players of taking in this moment and this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and enjoying it but at the same time not getting too caught up in it?
COACH GOMEZ: That's funny. You probably heard that, somebody told me the statement by Jay Wright and he told his players to sniff it, not taste it. That was a pretty good description of what to do. See it but don't get used to it, because the moment we got here, these girls could become spoiled brats if they just let themselves. But I was not going to allow that. I don't mind it being done to me, but I didn't want them to become spoiled. It's so easy to start feeling more important than you are. Hopefully they've been able to keep a good attitude and look at a way to help other people.

Q. With the NCAA Tournament, what did you learn from your team, the DNA and character of your team this year?
COACH GOMEZ: Yeah, oh, man, just a tough, unified group that had different people. We're not a team with a star. Nicole gets a lot of obviously a lot of attention and should. But we had games where Haley Fowler came through. Today Kellyn Schneider was huge for us. She's been hurt. The conference tournament she didn't play two games. She gutted it out one game in the Elite Eight against Bentley and played some good minutes. We just knew this rest was going to be good for her.

So without her recovery -- I don't even know what her stats are. I just know her presence is just so good for us. And so I just learned that it's definitely a team that functioned together and nobody ever felt selfish. And so I just feel like they toughed it out. We didn't play a lot of players. I didn't know how good a shape we would be in. I was really concerned physically how we'd do. But I just feel like they were tough and unselfish. That's what I learned. I guess it validated what I knew about them.

Q. If I remember right, to go undefeated, to be an undefeated national champion, there's only two other programs that have done that previously in Division II. So what's the feeling of accomplishment like?
COACH GOMEZ: I mean, I guess later tonight in the hotel I'll sit and think about it. I even said it after the game I was looking at our coaches and said we just went undefeated, won a national championship. I don't know what the feeling is like. It's what you play -- you play to do your best.

And this is a team that did, I think, their best. They did as good as they could. Too many times teams underachieve. And I think this was a team that just achieved to its highest level, which I think is more rare. People talk about overachieving. That's impossible. All you can do is do the best you can do, and this team did it. They did the best they could. And that just takes a lot of hard work and guts.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.

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