Lady Crusaders

Alicia Blackwell (left) and the 13th-ranked Lady Crusaders open the women’s NCAA Division III Tournament today against Rhodes in Richardson.

BELTON — Whether Alicia Blackwell drains a 3-pointer, comes up with a steal or commits a rare turnover, what follows is always the same. She simply runs to the other end of the court and keeps playing.

Anyone hoping to see fist pumps or tantrums will need to look elsewhere. Those types of reactions aren’t part of her game or even her personality, for that matter.

“I’m like that all the time,” the Mary Hardin-Baylor junior guard said of her even-keeled nature. “My parents are that way, too. They don’t get super upset or angry about things. That’s where I get it from.”

Blackwell’s next opportunity to put her level-headed disposition and steady production on display comes at 5 p.m. today, when No. 13 UMHB (25-3) takes on Rhodes (17-11) at UTD Activity Center on the Texas-Dallas Campus in a first-round game of the women’s NCAA Division III Tournament.

It will be the Lady Crusaders’ first NCAA tourney contest in program history, and Blackwell is a major reason they are in the 64-team field. Even that doesn’t get her too worked up, though.

“We’re happy that we’re the first team to make it, but we’re not focused on that excitement,” she said. “We want to keep winning.”

Blackwell’s outlook on things and her reactions to what’s happening around her are somewhat odd for a player of her ability. She is UMHB’s third-leading scorer (10.5 points per game) and rebounder (5.1), has an assist-to-turnover ratio that’s more than 2-to-1 and is the team’s top defender.

It would seem as if she has plenty of reasons to beat her chest. She just chooses not to.

“Alicia is very even-keeled. Nothing ever sways her one way or the other. She is the epitome of a workhorse,” Lady Crusaders coach Mark Morefield said. “Over her three years here, she has been in more critical game situations than anyone on the team. That’s because she’s a workhorse. She knows what to do defensively. She knows how to make the right plays offensively, and she rebounds the ball.

“We knew when we got her that she could score. It’s the other intangibles and her toughness that really surprised us.”

A native of North Carolina who moved to the Metroplex at age 10, Blackwell has been an integral part of the UMHB program for three seasons. The Plano Prestonwood Christian product has played in all 83 games since she arrived as a freshman and started every contest over the last two years.

Her game has evolved during that span, and her well-rounded production is relied upon by the Lady Crusaders on a nightly basis.

“I’m more aggressive now. When I first got here as a freshman, there were seniors here who had more experience. I was just trying to find anything I could do to help us win. It was mostly with my defense, because I didn’t have to score because we had other players who did that,” she said.

“As the years have gone on, I’ve become more aggressive as a scorer. I’ve worked on it in the offseason with my shot and driving and step-back (jumpers). It’s what we needed, so that’s where I had to step up my game.”

Even though the biology/pre-med major isn’t one to talk much on the court — “I don’t like to yell at someone,” she said — don’t mistake her conservation of words with a lack of fire.

UMHB enters the national event coming off a loss to Texas-Dallas in last weekend’s championship game of the American Southwest Conference tournament. If the Lady Crusaders get past the Lynx in the first round this evening, there’s a good chance they’ll be looking at a rematch with No. 16 UTD (24-4) in the second round Saturday night.

And Blackwell would relish another shot at the Comets.

“I didn’t expect to lose the conference championship, but we’re going to pull through,” she said. “It fuels me because that’s something that I wanted really badly. To lose it like we did, I’m going to keep that with me and use it.

“I really want to play UTD again, but you have to tell yourself to take it one game at a time. You have to focus on this game against Rhodes.”

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