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The North Arkansas College Lady Pioneers earned a trip to the National Junior College Athletic Association National Women’s Basketball Tournament.

However, the team will not be able to enjoy the experience of its efforts as the Covid-19 virus canceled the national event.

Leah Shellnut, Jasper; Cheyenne Shelton, Mountain View; Tori Hayes, Perryville; Brooklyn Schmelter, Perryville; Casey Wallace, Spokane, Mo.; and Saqueena Morgan, Newport have finished their careers as Lady Pioneers.

The team won two Region II tournaments and two Region II conference races. They also picked up the Plains District title to earn the trip to the national tournament.

A trip to the national tournament was an exciting thing for the squad. However there was sadness when members found out that they were not getting that chance.

“Although I may have wanted to break down and cry, I didn’t,” said Hayes when asked about her emotions at receiving the news. “I feel that even though this opportunity was stolen from us, we still have so much to keep our heads up about and to be thankful for. Not very many teams are conference, district and regional champs!”

Shelton stated how the news effected her.

“Not being able to go to the national tournament has really played a toll on my emotions and I am sad that we did not get to go out and give it our all one last time,” she said. “I find comfort in our hearts for the game. I always tell the girls to ‘play their hearts out’ on the hardwood and I honestly feel like that’s exactly what we did this season.”

The news of the tournament cancelation hit home with each girl. Leah Shellnut started the discussion.

“I am devastated that we didn’t get to make our run in Michigan,” she said. “We worked so hard to get to where we were. The energy we had throughout the season only got stronger as we got closer to our goal. Winning districts put a boost in everyone’s heart that we could make a run in the national tournament. I’m so said it is over, but I wouldn’t change anything with my girls.”

Schmelter felt a piece of her heart was taken.

“I am disappointed about our national trip,” she said. “We worked really hard this season, and the sophomores for two seasons, for it and it is hard to believe that it was just taken away from us. Honestly, it is really heartbreaking.”

Wallace is thankful for the memories of getting to the national tournament.

“I am disappointed that we weren’t able to attend the national tournament,” she started. “We worked hard throughout the season to get there, but I believe God has a reason for everything. I’m thankful for all the memories I had with this team and thankful for all the opportunities I was provided here at Northark.”

Shelton had a humane approach to the cancelation.

“I did find it heartbreaking that we will not experience the national tournament, but under the circumstances I completely understand,” said Shelton. “This is a time where we sacrifice our wants and desire for the needs of our loved ones.”

Hayes expressed her feelings.

“Of course, I am disappointed,” she said about not getting to go the national tournament. “This is my last year here at Northark and could have very possibly been my last opportunity to go to the national tournament,” she said. “It is disappointing knowing you come to a college far from home to play basketball and you give it your all, day after day, just to be denied a trip to what you’ve been working your heart out for.”

Hayes continued her thoughts.

“I was upset of course about not going to nationals,” she said. “The ultimate end goal for my team and I was to get to experience and go to the national tournament. I felt as if all our hard work and effort was just an unreachable goal this whole time.”

The sophomores finished with a 44-12 record over the two seasons at Northark. Schmelter thought it was a good career mark for the sophomores.

“In high school I played for a pretty decent team, but we were not ever good enough for the state tournament,” she said. “I don’t think we ever made it past the first round of regionals. So, knowing we only lost 12 games in two years is crazy, but thinking about all the talent we’ve had on this and the connections we’ve shared, it was very possible.”

The connection that the players have made with each other has been very important to the players.

“The bond that this team had was something indescribable,” said Shellnut. “I was never an ‘I,’ it was always a ‘we.’ We always included each other in everything we did and it helped out as much as we needed to.”

Wallace enjoyed the competitive drive of the squad.

“I loved that our team was always excited and wanting to win,” said Wallace. “We loved to play ball and enjoyed every minute of it.”

Wallace enjoyed the season.

“My favorite memory from this season was experiencing winning our region and district championship games,” said Wallace. “They were moments I will always be thankful I experienced and was a part of.”

Shellnut had her thoughts on selecting one favorite memory of the year.

“There are so many memories that fall into the favorite category,” she said. “Every day spent with my girls was a favorite memory, on and off the court.”

Selecting Northark has been a good decision for Schmelter.

“I am beyond happy I selected Northark,” she said. “Northark is home. These past two years have been filled with nothing but love and support. I knew in my heart Northark was where I belonged.”

Shelton is also delighted with selecting Northark.

“I am so I happy I chose Northark to continue my basketball career,” she said. “It has been a great experience and I am so thankful for everyone that has made Harrison my home away from home.”

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