The trio of Sheila Ford, Kim Duncan and Trish Wyatt led UNCA to the 1984 NAIA championship. It’s the only national title in school history and the sports moment judged the greatest in school history.
Ford, the first player in women’s collegiate basketball history to collect more than 2,000 points and 2,000 rebounds, recalled the team’s conditioning as a factor in their championship run.
“We were inside a classroom doing aerobics,” she said in the book Justice for All! The History of the Justice Center. “It was my first exposure to aerobics. Coach [Helen] Carroll thought it was a good way to get us in shape. And we continued to do aerobics during the season. Being in great condition really helped us as we got to the NAIA Tournament.”
Ford, the school’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder, was the NAIA Tournament MVP. She holds 18 school records and earned first-team All-America honors as a senior.
In the district semifinals against heavily favored Pembroke State, Ford had 26 rebounds in UNCA’s 62-56 victory; Pembroke State had 24.
Wyatt, a four-year starter and the school’s all-time leader with 424 assists, hit the winning shot for the Bulldogs in the title game against Portland.
Duncan, UNCA’s second all-time scoring leader, was named to the NAIA All-Tournament Team.
Carroll, who was 64-32 in three seasons as head coach, is also in the school’s hall of fame. Her .667 winning percentage, including a 32-5 record in 1983-84, remains unmatched by any UNCA coach.
At the national tournament in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, UNCA won four thrillers to take the title. UNCA rallied from an eight-point deficit for a 62-60 victory against Central Arkansas. In the quarterfinals, the Bulldogs upset two-time defending NAIA champion Southwest Oklahoma, 57-54.
In the semifinals against Dillard (La.), UNCA avenged a 70-56 during the regular season. Ford’s 41 points and 19 rebounds led UNCA into the championship game with an 81-64 victory.
Portland led 65-63 late in the title game, but Duncan scored with seven seconds remaining to send the game into overtime. The Bulldogs took a 70-65 lead, but Portland rallied to tie late.
UNCA decided to hold for a last shot and with three seconds left, Wyatt nailed a jumper from the left of the lane to give the Bulldogs a 72-70 victory. Ford had 26 points and 21 rebounds to finish the tournament with 111 points and 66 rebounds.
Above and on the cover: City and county leaders honor the UNC Asheville women’s basketball team after their return from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, with a national championship.
THIS WEEK’S GREATEST MOMENTS
• Monday: New Mexico State and New Orleans
• Tuesday: Nicholls and UNC Asheville
• Wednesday: UNC Greensboro and UNC Wilmington
• Thursday: North Dakota and Northeastern
• Friday: Northern Illinois and Northern Kentucky