College basketball: Westminster eager for postseason success
Nicole Yazzie doesn't worry about getting beaten. She doesn't fear what happens on the court if a loose ball falls into the other team's hand or if one of her teammates gets beaten.
Yazzie isn't afraid because she know Cydney Tibbitts will do the heavy lifting to get Westminster back on track.
"I call her the helper of the year," Yazzie said. "Anytime somebody gets beat, she'll come down court and help out. She is a big key to our defense."
Westminster is preparing for the Frontier Conference Tournament, and the Griffins are getting it done with the work of Yazzie and Tibbitts. The two seniors have propelled Westminster to a 25-3 record entering the week and have done it with blood, sweat and grace. Tibbitts knows that her teammates have been tested throughout the year and trusts them going into the tournament.
"I'm always excited to see what comes from this team," she said. "We dream big because we know we can do it."
The dream for the 6-foot-1 forward is something bigger than personal accomplishments. She is pushing Westminster to do what it never has done win the Frontier Conference Tournament. The Griffins started their season with a loss to Master's College, but Tibbitts is quick to point out that it didn't foreshadow the team's season. The feeling of losing powers her to fight through tough schedules, difficult opponents and talented players.
"Winning the conference tournament is personal for us," she said. "I want to get it for the school and my teammates."
Coach Shelley Jarrard hopes her team's strength of schedule has prepared it for the postseason.
"In how tough our schedule was, going 25-3 is pretty amazing," Jarrard said. "We're nationally ranked, and this is with us beating good teams on the road."
Yazzie, a guard, has been an intricate part of the Griffins' offense. Jarrard believes that Yazzie might be one of the best passers she has seen. With 77 assists to 36 turnovers, Yazzie has been instrumental in getting the ball into the right players' hands.
"We're much better with the ball in her hands," Jarrard said. "Yazzie sees the floor so well and makes everyone better."
Yazzie credits Tibbitts and Brooke Larsen for setting the tone for the season. They value being prepared for games. Jarrard works to get her team ready, but Tibbitts' leadership serves as an example for the other players.
"We're motivated by practice," Yazzie said. "Brooke and Cydney keep us focused and set the tone for the entire team. We take a lot of pride on being focused on basketball and playing to our potential."
With a win Friday, Westminster will play in the conference final Monday.
"I believe in my team, I really do," Tibbitts said. "There is so much potential and together I know we can win."
Nicole Yazzie, a native of West Valley City, was a part of Bingham High's 2007 state championship team.
Cydney Tibbitts spent her first two years in college playing at the University of Utah. She transferred to Westminster for the nursing program.
Westminster is ranked third in NAIA national polls.