40 in 40 - 2003 Women's Basketball MAC Tournament Champions
Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Title IX, wmubroncos.com takes a look at 40 key moments/females in the history of women's athletics at Western Michigan University. Though the selection process, an effort was made to highlight a moment and player/coach from each of our current women's sports programs, as well pay respect to our women's legacy sports. A different feature will be released each of the 40 days, July 24 through Sept. 1.
2003 Women's Basketball MAC Tournament Champions
Winning the 2003 Mid-American Conference Tournament as the No. 4 seed, the Western Michigan women's basketball team is the lowest seed ever to win the championship.
WMU etched its name in the record books as well, setting tournament records for total points (329), field goals made (103), field goal attempts (244), free throws made in a game (38), free throws made overall (99) and free throw attempts (114).
Tournament MVP Casey Rost set a tournament record for points with 80, which stood until Eastern Michigan's Tavelyn James scored 83 in 2011. Kristin Koetsier still holds the record for free throws made in a tournament with 32, and Maria Jilian tied a tournament mark with 17 steals. Jilian was also named to the all-tournament team,
The 2003 team featured four players that would score 1,000 points in their career in Rost, Koestier, Jilian and Kelly Koerber.
"What made the '03 team so special, was our team chemistry and desire to win," Rost said. "We all got along great and enjoyed spending time with each other on and off the court. We knew we could rely on and trust our teammates. These are the things needed in order for a team to be successful."
After going 10-6 in the conference regular season, WMU hosted Akron in a first round game. The Broncos easily disposed of the Zips, 101-60, to advance to Cleveland.
WMU cruised past Kent State, 87-72, in the quarterfinals and pulled off a 60-57 victory over top-seeded Toledo in the semifinals, to advance to the championship game for the first time since 1988.
The Broncos faced Ball State in the title match, and fell behind early as the Cardinals jumped out to an 11-2 lead. Trailing 22-14 midway through the half, WMU chipped away and took the lead just before the half, 39-37. Ball State would tie the game five times in the second half, but never led again.
With time winding down and the game tied at 76-76, WMU's Lori Crisman made a layup and Jilian sank the first of two foul shots to put WMU up three with 21 seconds remaining. Ball State missed on a three-point attempt and fouled Crisman on the rebound. Crisman sank both foul shots with six seconds on the clock for the 81-76 final score.
"One of my favorite moments of the MAC Championship was the final buzzer sound going off and all of the team rushing the court in excitement and celebration," Rost said. "I loved receiving the trophy and knowing that all of our hard work paid off.
"It is every athlete's goal to win the conference tournament and make it to the NCAA tourney. I am very fortunate and grateful that I experienced this early in my college career with such great teammates and friends."
The championship was the first for Western Michigan since 1985 and the second in school history, WMU finished the 2003 season with a 20-12 record, only the third 20-win season in program history and first since 1977-78.