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story.lead_photo.caption Joe Foley

The season finale did not go as the Trojans wished, but UALR had already achieved its goal.

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock's women's basketball team was sent home after a 68-51 loss against No. 5 seed Gonzaga in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday in Corvallis, Ore.

The Trojans, who finished 21-11, have qualified for six NCAA Tournaments since 2010, by far the most of any women's basketball program in the state of Arkansas.

In fact, UALR's women have appeared in more NCAA Tournaments than the University of Arkansas (2), the University of Central Arkansas (2), Arkansas State University (0) and the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (0) combined since 2010.

The goal for UALR each season is to win the Sun Belt Conference and earn a bid into the NCAAs.

Looking back at the 2018-19 season, UALR added a co-Sun Belt regular-season championship and a conference tournament title to the trophy room.

A second consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament was earned. UALR's goals for the past season were all checked.

To no surprise, UALR's goal for the 2019-20 season is the same.

"Always to get back here," said UALR Coach Joe Foley following UALR's loss to the Bulldogs at Gill Coliseum on Oregon State's campus. "NCAAs are so much fun. Winning your conference -- we've accomplished that in [the past] few years -- and so that's always our goal, to see if we can get back here."

The Trojans' loss put a bow on the playing career of senior forwards and twin sisters Raeyana and Ronjanae DeGray -- the co-Sun Belt Player of the Year -- and senior reserves Yanina Inkina and Kiara Scott.

The DeGrays, both from Odessa, Texas, finished with a 73-11 record against Sun Belt opponents in their four seasons, making them the winningest duo in Sun Belt play in Foley's 16 seasons as coach.

The fact even stunned Ronjanae DeGray.

"Wow, I did not know that," she said. "I'll go tell my sister."

The sisters were the Trojans' lone seniors to play in each of their four seasons at UALR.

In 70 starts, 116 games played and in 3,093 total minutes, Ronjanae DeGray averaged 10.6 points and 5.1 rebounds in her career. She set single season career highs in points (14.5) and rebounds (7.0) per game in her senior season.

Raeyana DeGray also set single-season career highs in points (7.0) and rebounds (5.6) in 2018-19.

The DeGrays helped lead UALR to four consecutive postseason appearances, including two trips as freshmen and sophomores to the WNIT and two to the NCAA Tournament as juniors and seniors.

"You're talking about two great kids that have played four years," Foley said. "They're the kind of kids you want to coach ... [They] show up for practice every day [with] a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of care about their teammates. They're just awesome kids."

After losing the DeGrays, the focal point of the Trojans next season will shift to the backcourt, where junior guard Kyra Collier -- who led the team in scoring for much of the season, but trailed DeGray with 14.4 points per game at the end -- will become a senior.

Collier played all 32 games this season and was known as UALR's most reliable scorer and strongest ball-handler, Foley said.

Sophomore guards Tori Lasker, who made a team-high 53 three-pointers in 130 attempts, and Terrion Moore -- UALR's best on-ball defender, according to Foley -- will continue to anchor UALR's backcourt with Collier.

Collier, Lasker and Moore contributed 32.3 points per game, which was more than half of the Trojans' team average of 61.4 point per game.

Photo by AP/MATTHEW HINTON
UALR Coach Joe Foley led the Trojans to the NCAA Women’s Tournament for the sixth time since 2010, reaching a goal he sets for his program every year.

Sports on 03/26/2019

Print Headline: UALR achieved its goal

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