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Bellaire’s Tiber enjoying D-I coaching success

FLORENCE, AL. — The University of North Alabama has transitioned quite nicely into the world of Division I women’s basketball.

The Lions recently completed their second season at the NCAA’s highest level, posting a sparkling 21-9 record. It also marked the first time in school history the program has recorded three consecutive 20-plus win seasons.

Missy Tiber is the architect of North Alabama roundball success.

The former Bellaire High and West Liberty University hoop standout has been the Lions’ head coach for the past seven seasons. She has compiled a solid 120-80 at the Florence-based school.

While the 2019-20 campaign once again proved fruitful for the Lions, it ended somewhat prematurely. UNA advanced to the ASUN Conference Tournament semifinals and was in the hunt for a post-season berth until the coronavirus pandemic shut down college basketball as well as life as we know it.

“The season went well. We had some real big wins,” Tiber said. “We also had some close losses to big-time programs like Iowa and Iowa State which were confidence boosters and another step in our growth process.

“We also had two of our players finish as the No. 1 and No. 2 scorers in program history and our senior class set a record for most wins,” she added. “There were a lot of positives this season for our players and program.”

While a second successive 20-plus win campaign has now solidly established North Alabama as a quality D-I program, the truncated ending of the season did yield some disappointment for Tiber.

“I told our players when we took the floor for the last tournament game to play like it was their last game of the season. We didn’t realize it would be,” Tiber offered. “We were in line for an NIT bid. We definitely would have been playing in some post-season tournament.

“It was a tough pill to swallow, especially for our five seniors who really helped to build this program to the level it is at,” she continued. “But we aren’t the only ones going through this. Everybody is dealing with this pandemic. They (NCAA) made the right decision to stop play.”

While Tiber must replace the school’s most successful senior class which pocketed a record 85 careers wins, she feels good about the 2020-21 season.

“Next year will obviously be somewhat of a rebuild. When you lose the seniors that we do, it is a lot to replace,” Tiber offered. “But we do have some nice talent coming back. We have the conference newcomer-of-the-year returning as well as the freshman of the year. I also like our recruiting class coming in.

“Our players know how to win and winning breeds more winning. I like where our program is at and where it is heading,” she added. “Our attendance has been super and all the people here are truly hospitable. I really like everything about this place.”

Tiber, 47, led the Lions to a 21-9 mark a year ago, their first season as a D-I member. In the process, they earned the No. 4 seed in the ASUN Tournament with a 10-6 league record after being picked to finish eighth in the preseason coaches’ poll.

She has more than 20 years of collegiate coaching experience, including 18 seasons as a head coach. Tiber owns a 306-236 career record. She won her 300th game on Feb. 3, 2020, with a 57-55 road win at NJIT.

Tiber is a 1994 graduate of West Liberty University with a bachelor of science degree. She also has a master’s degree in sport leadership from Virginia Commonwealth University.

Tiber began her coaching career as an assistant at West Liberty before becoming head coach at D-II Belmont Abbey College. Her teams amassed an overall record of 81-36 and a conference mark of 61-19.

Belmont Abbey proved a springboard to landing the Tusculum University head position from 2005-09. She took a program at the bottom of the South Atlantic Conference and compiled a record of 86-34 and a conference mark of 40-20. Tusculum was 52-11 overall and 26-4 in conference play her last two years at the helm, winning back-to-back conference championships.

Tiber’s top assistant is Adrienne Harlow. She was a three-time all-WVC honoree at West Liberty. Her 843 career assists are fifth most in NCAA Division II history.

BUBBA’S BITS

FORMER WVU defensive back Dravon Askew-Henry has signed a two-year contract with the New York Giants. He most recently was a member of the XFL’s New York Guardians.

THE CANAAN Valley half-marathon, 10K & 5K scheduled for this month has been reset for Aug. 22-23 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

THE ANNUAL WVU Coaches Caravan, scheduled for Wheeling at River City this May, has been postponed another victim of the coronavirus pandemic.

THREE OHIO University Eastern girls basketball players earned All-Ohio Regional Campus Conference honors. Former Buckeye Local standouts Alaire Destifanes and Becky Zeroski were first- and second-team honorees, respectively, while St. John Central two-time all-Ohioan Kaylin Nixon was a special-mention selection.

DEREK WOLFE has scripted a solid NFL career in his eight seasons with the Denver Broncos. The former Beaver Local all-Ohioan now brings his 6-5, 285-pound bundle of talent to Baltimore where he has a solid chance of returning to the Super Bowl. Wolfe, 30, had five tackles and half a sack in helping the Broncos to a 24-10 win over Carolina in Super Bowl 50. He is one of the best run-stoppers in the NFL, recording 299 tackles to go with 33 sacks. Denver picked him in the second round of the NFL Draft.

MITCH HANNAHS had the Indiana State baseball team off to a solid start when the coronavirus pandemic shut the campaign down. The former Skyvue High legend had his seventh-edition of the Sycamores sitting at 8-6, coming off a two-game sweep of Kansas. Hannahs is a member of the Indiana State Hall of Fame for his great baseball playing career. He is also a member of the OVAC Hall of Fame.

RENO SACCOCCIA is a prep football coaching legend. The Steubenville Big Red grid boss is also a community-minded individual. Saccoccia and his players donated their time and strength to assist the Salvation Army with heavy lifting duties during this time of crisis.

THE 2020 West Virginia Victory Awards Dinner scheduled for May 3 at the Embassy Suites in Charleston has been called off. The hotel has suspended in-house food preparation for an indefinite period and local, state and national governments have placed size limitations on meetings through the end of April and possibly longer. The 2021 Victory Awards Dinner has been scheduled for Sunday, May 2 at the same site.

THE NFL expanding to 14 playoff teams is a prudent and popular move.

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