(WARRENSBURG, Mo.) The tradition of cutting down the nets, which Central Missouri took part in on Saturday, confirmed what the Jennies already knew.
"Coming in this year, I knew it was going to be a good team," freshman guard Andee Wahlert said. "As the season kept going, I though: 'Wow. This is a special team and we can really do something here."
Wahlert and junior guard Breonna Embray experienced the celebration in their second stint as teammates. They played together at Benton High School and are doing big things as comrades on the court again.
"It's good to be teammates with somebody you've already been teammates with," Embray said. "We work well together."
"She's the mom of the team," Wahlert said. "She takes me in and helps me with anything I need. She's just a great teammate and a great friend."
That chemistry has helped UCM hold a top 15 ranking all season and, with a win over Northwest on Saturday, secure the program's first MIAA Championship since 1991.
"We won two conference titles at Missouri Western and it's been 12 years since we'd won one. It feels fantastic," Jennies head coach Dave Slifer said.
As the former coach of the Griffons, Slifer's familiarity with St. Joseph led him to draw Embray from Benton to Warrensburg. Wahlert's sister, Shannon, had previously played for him at MWSU, and that connection with the family meant Andee wasn't far behind Embray.
"It played a big role," Wahlert said. "They're a great coaching staff, great people. I knew that from my sister so I knew I wanted to be in an environment with them."
UCM marches into this week's MIAA Tournament as the top seed and will face the winner of Monday's Northwest-Northeastern State game. For the former Cardinals, the job is far from done.
"Our goal is to get to the national tournament, so this is the first step in that."
"We really want to work hard and get that goal accomplished," Embray said. "We're looking forward to it."