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It’s not whether or not they win or lose Monday night against a worthy opponent that counts. For the women’s basketball team at Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, the players and coaches recognizes that the team has already accomplished something no other HBCU has done in over a decade. The Lady Wildcats will be the first historically black college or university to play in the NAIA semifinals since 2002.

But no one wants this Cinderella story to end.

After topping last season’s 29-4 record, the 30-4 Lady Wildcats advanced to the Fab Four in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Women’s Basketball Championship, defeating Westminster College of Salt Lake City, Utah, 75-58, Saturday in Frankfort, Kentucky.  “We had a game plan coming in to the game, which was turn our defense into offense, and it proved to be effective,” said Coach Garrett-Pruitt, who is 79-17 in three seasons with the Lady Wildcats.

“We wanted to keep building on that lead, because Westminster is a very good team that had the capability of getting back into that game, and we tried our best to stick to our game plan and not let them back in,” he said.

“As everyone focuses on action in the NCAA, we wanted to share our good news in the NAIA,” Wiley College Director of Public Relations Tammy Taylor told HBCU Buzz via email.

Wiley College became the first HBCU to advance to the NAIA semifinals when former member Central State advanced to the semifinals in 2002. The team now faces the NAIA No. 1 ranked team Freed-Hardeman (Tennessee) Monday night at 7 p.m. CDT.

“I know it’s going to be a tough game,” said Coach Garrett-Pruitt. “Freed-Hardeman is a very good team, they have a historic program and great coaching, so I know that we are going to have our work cut out for us, but I believe it’s going to be a very good game.”

Every Cinderella story is meant to have a “happily ever after ending,” right?

Tommy Meade Jr. is HBCU Buzzs Editor-in-chief. Follow him on Twitter.

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