Every coach who has ever recruited has searched for that one special class to come along and change everything. I was lucky because for me that class was my first. A class like The Triumvirate — defined as a group of three people who share a position of power — of 2011 comes along once upon a program. I know this because history tells me so. Sure other great players have come before them, and great players are sure to follow, but only one class gets to be the first — the first to radically transform culture; the first to break the glass ceiling; the first to get the Rowdies to show up at 5:30 p.m.; the first to win a championship, be ranked in the Top 10, and make the NCAA Tournament; the first to come back the next year and do it all again; the first to be ranked in the top 25 for 435 consecutive days; and the first to win three rings, bring home five trophies, cut down three nets, and hang five banners. They are history makers. The Triumvirate came in to make a difference together, and they‘ve done just that. When their final season began, the theme was Legacy. Posters were made. A video was produced. (Watch Legacy video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8swRpk2O-5Q) Expectations were raised. The team, led by these three seniors, delivered. They delivered in the form of a back-to-back GAC regular season title, the program’s first ever GAC Tournament Championship, 23 wins, and a return trip to March Madness. They wanted to leave a legacy to be proud of. With a combined 2,919 points, 2,000 rebounds, 729 assists, 312 steals, 319 starts, and an 89-30 record, their legacy is complete. Tabitha Haney was the first of the fabled trio to commit to be a Lady Bison, and she has been a rock for the program throughout her career — a constant presence of grit, determination and burning desire to win. Tab was a ferocious competitor but often flew under the radar due to her willingness to make the extra pass and sacrifice for the good of the team. Yet she still finished fifth all-time in threes, sixth all-time in minutes played, and sixth all-time in starts with 87. Tab was the glue and a crucial ingredient of the championship core. Simply put, Tab is a winner. Montana Lewis was our “Iron Mon,” a relentless warrior who, every game of her career, played multiple offensive positions and guarded the opposition’s best scorer. She started 113 consecutive games (second all-time) and played more minutes than anyone to ever wear a Lady Bison jersey while making double zero an iconic number at Harding. She finished fourth all-time in offensive rebounds, seventh all-time in defensive rebounds, and 12th all-time in scoring. For four years, Mon was the heartbeat of the program. She also was its voice as she was able to relate to any teammate, all the while carrying herself with a grace and class that was respected by all. Arielle Saunders has been the cornerstone from her first day on campus. Unwavering in her consistency, she earned an immediate starting spot as the center of the offense and the anchor of the defense, going on to start a program-record 119 games. Physically, A was seemingly invincible, never missing a start, never out with injury, and never missing time on the track. (Including running a 6:00 minute mile all 4 years, with a personal best 5:52.) Mentally, she was above reproach. From hitting game-winning free throws to a perfect 4.0 GPA that helped her earn First Team Academic All-American, A was the epitome of mental toughness. Her numbers have been astounding. She holds every Harding blocked shot record, is the all-time leader in double-doubles with 44, all-time leader in both offensive and defensive rebounds, second all-time in minutes played, and eighth all-time in both scoring and assists. Above all, she knew that being a Lady Bison was about more than her impressive stat line. (Link to Arielle’s reflections on her career https://medium.com/@asaunders32/forever-a-bison-d81ba0717de) Tab, Mon and A are the foundation. They stayed the course and steadied the ship in difficult times. They led the way great leaders lead with love, strength and resolve. It was a pleasure to recruit them, a joy to watch them grow through the years, and an absolute honor to coach them. I can assure you that as great as they were on the floor, they’ve always been far better off of it. As individuals, their accolades are impressive, but what has catapulted this group into legendary status is the sum of their parts. Their greatest glory lies in the winning. They put Lady Bison basketball on the national map and took it to unprecedented heights. (GAC Championship highlight link: http://goo.gl/BfVzqH ). The Triumvirate never settled. They never bought into the idea of a glass ceiling and always pushed for new levels of greatness. At the end of their journey, they landed in the stars. This is their legacy.
David Walker, assistant women’s basketball coach
Tags: Womens Basketball