By Matthew Speakman / Special to The Tuscaloosa News
Posted Jan 12, 2018 at 8:19 PM Updated Jan 13, 2018 at 6:51 PM
Before they exit every huddle, Shelton State women's basketball head coach Madonna Thompson has her team say one word: relentless.
That is how she wants her team to play every game. So far, it has worked.
The Lady Bucs have scored more than 100 points in seven of their 20 games this season and averages 93.6 points per game, and is 20-0.
That perfect start and relentless attitude is why Shelton State is now No. 1 for the first time in school history.
"I think there are 189 division one junior college women's basketball teams," Thompson said. "When you think about that enough people have voted on that we are the best out of all of those, it's just a big honor."
In junior college basketball, getting the No. 1 ranking is not as simple as it is in other sports. Since teams mostly play schools in its region, it's hard to play a team that is No. 1. Not having that win over the top school can keep a team from being at the top themselves.
This season, however, Shelton State got the opportunity to play the two-time defending national champion in Gulf Coast State College, which owned that top ranking. The Lady Bucs took advantage of that opportunity, winning 62-54.
The players had a specific mindset going into that game. They knew that to be No. 1, they had to beat No. 1.
"They were excited about the opportunity they had," Thompson said. "It doesn't come around very often. We were only going to get one shot at them...They wanted to take advantage of that opportunity."
In the same way Shelton State was fired up for its shot at Gulf Coast, teams are now fired up to face the Lady Bucs.
"It does put a bullseye on our back, but we all kind of like that," Thompson said. "We've all got that attitude on this team. We like that. I don't think anyone is scared of it."
Grabbing that No. 1 spot helps Shelton State with awareness, which helps with recruiting.
Players take notice when a team sits at the top of the country. Already, Thompson is getting more attention and has seen a spike in the kids that want to play at Shelton State.
"This has probably doubled the amount of emails I get," Thompson said. "With recruiting, it's going to give us a lot more options for the kids that we are going to chose to put on our team next year."
While the Buccaneers have their sights still set on a national championship, that doesn't stop them from enjoying this piece of school history. This group accomplished something that no other Shelton State has in the history of the program.
"It's their history," Thompson said. "They can always say, 'We are the ones. We are the first ones to ever get this team up to the No. 1 ranking.' So, I think they're very proud of it.