Jina Douglas admits she’s never really been an emotional person.
The events of the past three weeks, though, have had a way of changing that for the Hastings College women’s basketball coach.
First, she became a mother for the first time when Ava Dinae was born on Feb. 24. She was eight weeks premature, weighing 2½ pounds, and has been at Methodist Women’s Hospital near Elkhorn ever since. Her mother said Ava may be there until April 17, her original due date.
“We’re hoping she gets out a little earlier, but she has to get bigger before she goes home,” said Douglas, who added that Ava is now over 3 pounds. “She’s kind of passed all the milestones she needs to pass at this point.”
Ava was born two days before the start of the GPAC tournament. Jina stayed with Ava during the three games of the tournament as Hastings, ranked fourth nationally, reached the final against No. 2 Concordia.
Douglas watched those games online.
“It was really hard. It was kind of weird,” she said. “I know it’s just a game, but you almost put your whole life into it. I thought my assistant coaches (Chelsey Morten and Michelle DeCoud) did a great job. They were put in a tough spot.
“You’re not there for about two weeks, and all of a sudden you’re taken out of the equation. But my assistants were great and my team was great. You really couldn’t ask any more of them.”
Hastings lost a tough defensive battle to Concordia, but the Broncos still earned the No. 4 overall seed for the NAIA tournament, which started last Wednesday in Sioux City.
Douglas was back with her team at practice on March 7 and planned to drive back and forth from Omaha every day during the tournament. Hastings was slated to play its tournament opener last Thursday night. She was in Sioux City that morning for a team shootaround.
Then came another turning point.
The team was going through out-of-bounds plays under the basket when the strength coach showed Douglas an email: The tournament had been canceled.
“I took 10 seconds to compose myself before I told the team, but it didn’t really happen. I was emotional myself,” Douglas said. “Some of the seniors were crying and some of them were just angry. You just feel awful for them.”
Douglas, who is remembered by many as Jina Johansen, a star guard at Centura High School and the University of Nebraska, knew then that her seniors had played their last games. The Broncos had four all-conference seniors in their lineup, including GPAC player of the year Shandra Farmer out of Hastings St. Cecilia.
And a 30-win season — a first for Hastings since 2007-08 — had abruptly ended.
“We could have lost in the first round or we could have won the whole thing, but you just want to play it out to know. It was ripped away from them,” Douglas said. “But there’s a lot of stuff going on.”
Douglas said she also felt sad for her seniors’ parents who “didn’t get to see their daughters play one more time.” But sometime soon, Douglas said, the team will get together to look back on what was a successful season.
“It was a great year and there’s a lot of celebrate,” she said.
In other Midlands notes:
» The NAIA and the NJCAA followed the NCAA on Monday and canceled the spring sports season. Spring sports student-athletes won’t lose a season of eligibility.
» Jason Munsch was having a dominant season for Concordia’s baseball team. The left-hander from California threw a seven-inning no-hitter with 16 strikeouts on Friday against Briar Cliff. In four starts this season, Munsch pitched 26 innings and allowed no earned runs, nine hits and six walks and struck out 59.
» Nebraska Wesleyan senior Nate Schimonitz was named the D3hoops.com All-West region MVP. The Omaha Creighton Prep graduate averaged 25.4 points per game this season.
The Nebraska 100: Our greatest athletes
The Nebraska 100, originally selected in 2005 and then updated and re-ranked in 2015, came from a pool of nearly 500 names from the ranks of high school, college, amateur and professional sports from the past 140 years. Assistance came from a panel of veteran sports observers from across the state, with the newspaper's sports staff determining the final rankings.