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The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

The Tanya Warren Era

In her 17th year at UNI, Coach Warren sets record for conference wins after 18-point comeback
Warren+stepped+into+the+role+of+head+coach+at+UNI+in+2007%E2%80%94her+first+collegiate+head+coaching+position.+She+was+the+first+Black+woman+to+coach+basketball+in+the+Missouri+Valley+Conference+and+was+the+first+Black+woman+to+become+a+head+coach+of+any+sport+at+UNI.
ISABELLE BRADLEY
Warren stepped into the role of head coach at UNI in 2007—her first collegiate head coaching position. She was the first Black woman to coach basketball in the Missouri Valley Conference and was the first Black woman to become a head coach of any sport at UNI.

After an 18-point comeback, a career-best performance from point guard Maya McDermott and a victory that broke the all-time conference wins record in the Missouri Valley, Head Women’s Basketball Coach Tanya Warren seemed to have one word on her mind: “Blessed.”

It all happened Saturday afternoon in the Panther’s second match-up of the season against the Murray State Racers—the team with the third-highest scoring offense in the nation. Despite securing a 95-75 victory over the Racers in January, the Panthers had a slow start to the first quarter. The Racers put forth a 13-0 run in the first five minutes, leading the Panthers 15-2.

Junior guard Kayba Laube broke the run with a quick 3-pointer. However, the battle against Murray State’s aggressive offense would continue as the Racers tallied 11 more points. Maya McDermott would end the quarter with a layup and two made free throws, bringing the score to 26-13.

Coach Tanya Warren said Maya McDermott, pictured above, is ‘the best point guard in the league.’ (ISABELLE BRADLEY)

The Panthers began to find their groove in the second quarter. After a Murray State layup to start the frame, Grace Boffeli got the Panthers on the board with a layup of her own just above the 8-minute mark. The back-and-forth between the teams continued, with McDermott scoring 8 points of her own in a one minute span. Another basket by McDermott, a three-pointer by Taryn Wharton, and a jumper and two free throws by Boffeli brought the Panthers within 7 points of the Racers with three minutes left of the half.  Murray State’s shooting remained hot, pulling ahead again at the end of the half 48-36.

Over the course of the third quarter, the Panthers hung with the Racers’ scoring, both teams scoring 24 points a piece during the period. Two McDermott jumpers and one from Cailyn Morgan weren’t enough to stave off an 18-point lead by the Racers. McDermott went on to score 9 more points by the end of the quarter. Wharton narrowed the lead to 12 points with a pair of free throws to close out the frame.

With just ten minutes left to play, the Panthers started the fourth period strong with a steal by Laube and a consequent layup by Goebel. The UNI defense held the Racers to just 15 points while putting on a 29 point performance, featuring 11 points from Boffeli, two Goebel layups and 3 three point jumpers from McDermott.

McDermott tallied 6 assists over the course of the game, including a pass under the basket to Boffeli that would result in the first Panther lead of the game with just 24 seconds left on the clock. A key defensive rebound by Riley Goebel would close the game, 87-89.

McDermott ended the game with 36 points, a career high performance and a tie for the season-high points in one game in the MVC. She made four free throws, keeping her spot as the top free throw shooter in the nation.

The 18-point deficit comeback pulled UNI into a tie for fourth place in the conference with Southern Illinois. It also marked a milestone for UNI Women’s Basketball: Warren’s 202nd conference win, setting a new record for winningest coach in the Valley.

That’s what makes coaching here a blessing. They’re selfless, selfless young women and they are a joy every single day.

— Tanya Warren, Head Coach, UNI Women's Basketball

Warren stepped into the role of head coach at UNI in 2007—her first collegiate head coaching position. She was the first Black woman to coach basketball in the Missouri Valley Conference and was the first Black woman to become a head coach of any sport at UNI. During her time, she had brought the Panthers to three NCAA Division 1 tournament appearances, including the team’s first ever appearance in 2010. She has won two MVC regular season conference titles in 2011 and 2016, two MVC tournament championships in 2010 and 2011 and has been named a three-time MVC Coach of the Year.

Coach Warren reflected on Saturday’s game during Monday’s coaches press conference.

“We just found a way, made big play after big play both offensively and defensively,” Warren said. “I’m extremely proud of them.”

During her time as a college athlete, Warren was a legendary guard at Creighton University from 1983-1988. She racked up 1,566 career points as a Bluejay and still sits on several top ten lists for the university.

Following McDermott’s 36-point performance, Warren had plenty of praise from one point guard to another.

“I’ve been very blessed to coach some really really good point guards, and she certainly has etched her name amongst those,” she said.

“In the first quarter when I subbed Maya out, I literally looked her in the eye and I said, ‘I tell you this every single game. You are the best point guard in this league. Now you just got to go play like it.’” Warren said.

“She not only took those words to heart, she went beyond,” she said. “And what you love about Maya, she’s more excited for her teammates scoring than she is for herself.” 

Warren was quick to recognize all of the team’s components that led to victory that day. She noted the team’s ability to find McDermott and get her the ball, to set screens to get her open and overall get her in position to score.

Boffeli also brought 21 points to the table, Wharton adding 12 points from the bench and Laube leading with 8 assists.

As the final buzzer solidified the late-game win, the Panther bench erupted in cheers for their teammates. That display of character, Warren said, makes all the difference.

“That’s what makes coaching here a blessing. They’re selfless, selfless young women and they are a joy, every single day. No matter whether we win or lose, they are a joy, and I’m proud and honored to coach them,” she said.

When asked about her newfound record title, Warren thought back to her start at UNI and former UNI athletic director Rick Hartzell who made it all possible.

“17 years ago when we took over this program, our vision was to build a program, not just a team, and that’s the thing that I’m most proud of,” she said. “I have been blessed to have been surrounded by amazing people, coaches, players, administrators, and I can’t help but to go back and thank Rick Hartzell for 17 years ago thinking outside the box and giving me an opportunity.”

Warren has signed a contract to stick with the Panthers through the 2028-2029 season. The Panthers take on Southern Illinois at 6 p.m. Thursday night in the McLeod Center.

 

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