During basketball season, Salt Lake Community College usually hangs banners for championships, region titles, and recognition of athletic excellence.
But this season, the Lady Bruins were able to hang a different banner; one signifying head coach Betsy Specketer’s 500th victory after 22 years as head coach. This was a shining achievement after another successful season for the Lady Bruins.
On Nov. 18, 2017, Specketer and the Bruins defeated Midland College on their home floor, 54-51, in an overtime thriller. That game was the one where Specketer earned her banner. Six days later, at Bruin Arena, there was a pregame ceremony honoring Specketer and her career at SLCC. Four quarters later, the Bruins lost to Casper College, 77-72.
“As fun as it was for people to maybe put that whole celebration together and as nice as it was to be recognized, as far as for me, the loss put a little damper on the whole thing,” Specketer says with a laugh. “I was actually just happy to get the night over with and get on to the next game the next day.”
Specketer says the banner serves as a reminder of the players and staff that have supported her at SLCC.
“When I look up at the banner, every time I might do that which isn’t very often, it’s going to bring back memories of 22 years,” Specketer says. “It’s not really that one game; it’s a lot of years, a lot of players, a lot of hard work from a lot of different people to make it happen. I didn’t do it all alone, you can’t. That’s what the banner really means more to me. It’s just so many people and the hard work they put in to make this happen. And that’s gratifying, I’m pleased with that.”
Specketer’s coaching staff is widely recognized as an elite unit, especially with assistant coach Marcilina Grayer at her side. Grayer was named to the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association’s “30 under 30” list for her work with the Bruins. Grayer, a former player for Specketer, is the only coach from the SWAC to ever earn a spot on the list.
As for the team, the Lady Bruins finished the 2017-18 season with a record of 26-6, going an unblemished 9-0 on the road. Led by the phenomenal sophomore Tia Hay, SLCC earned their fifth straight conference regular season title.
Hay will be long considered as one the greatest basketball players to ever wear the Bruin uniform. Her scoring ability is second to none, as she averaged nearly 20 points a game. Hay has been instrumental for the team since she first arrived on campus two years ago.
With a combination of great coaching and talented players, the team was able to overcome early injuries. Just a few weeks before the postseason, the Bruins had to add volleyball star Lia Finau to the team just to have enough bodies to last the remaining weeks.
Hay and Specketer were named the Region 18 Player of the Year and Coach of the Year, respectively.
In the SWAC tournament, the women continued their winning ways, rolling through their two games by an average of 10 points. But a heartbreaking one-point loss in the NJCAA tournament sent the Bruins home early.
“It’s just unfortunate, I think had we won that game, we would have been better in the next one, I really believe that,” Specketer says. “That’s kind of what happened the year before; every game we played we got a little bit better against better competition. We just got tripped up on that first game.”
Departures from the team include sophomores Hay, Finau, Ariel Miller, Jamaica Christensen, Nani Tonga, Kimauri Toia, and Rian Rawlings. This class won 56 games in two years, along with back-to-back region and SWAC titles, something that SLCC has never done as a program.
The freshmen on the team know it’s now their turn to carry the torch next year and get themselves back to the pinnacle of women’s basketball.
“You don’t really need to challenge [the freshmen] much, I think they know,” Specketer says. “They know what’s kind of expected of them, this program, to get to that level and get back there … That was a tough loss, but now we move forward.”