BELTON- Alexia Martin remembers having the thought, ‘We could’ve gone deep into that tournament,’ But when she looked up on the scoreboard, walking out of the compact gymnasium at Amherst College, there was no result to be read. The end of their season had not come on the court, but rather while they were at the court, in the form of a phone call.
“This memory is not a happy memory but it is something I’ve held with me throughout my college career moving forward,” Martin said of the cancellation of the 2019-2020 D-III women’s basketball tournament. “It was the moment where we were getting ready to play in the Sweet 16 and got sent home for Covid.
“I remember being in that practice, and being with the leaders around us, and how pumped up they were. It was a really good practice. And then when we found out [it was canceled] I remember the feeling I had walking out of that practice, thinking’ We could have gotten far into the tournament.’”
Covid directly canceled that tournament, just as the Crusaders prepared for the second weekend of the postseason.And last season, it indirectly canceled it; not enough teams had played the required minimum number of games to meet the threshold.
But all systems are a go this year, and this season has special meaning to Martin: she is a senior. This is her last chance to help lead UMHB back into March.
“Knowing how we got there and how we got there, has carried me through these past two seasons, understanding it’s a grind,” Martin added. “Teams are going to be ready to play us but at the end of the day, getting to that point and knowing how good it felt to get to that point,I want to get back to that. I want to give the younger players on our team that experience as well.”
The Lancaster, Texas native has taken on that sort of a leadership role, especially in the last two seasons. After graduating three key seniors following that abrupt 2019-20 season ending, the coaching staff brought in a number of newcomers, which changed Martin’s role entering her junior year last season and has continued during this season.
“Previously I was one of the younger players, so I could just come in and do what I do,” Martin said recently. “But now being a leader, it’s just not that easy. I have to remember that for some of these girls, it’s their first time playing in some of these games, especially this year when we have a lot of freshmen playing a lot of minutes.
“One thing that I tried to set the tone for, especially in the early practices, is that we’re going to have to work. It’s going to be a dogfight every game. It doesn’t matter about the rankings and who says what about us. We don’t really have anything to prove. We’re honestly just trying to win games.”
The Crusaders have won, and at a rapid rate. Entering Saturday’s regular season finale, at home against No. 22 ETBU, UMHB is riding a 20-game win streak. The team has not lost since Nov. 26, and sits as the nation’s No. 14 team. Martin has not started a game for the Cru this season, but has embraced her role coming off the bench in all 23 contests, often providing a spark. Such as in the McMurry victory in which UMHB struggled to generate offense early on. It was Martin who came off the bench to score 13 points, connecting on three of the Cru’s four three-pointers in the win.
“Lex has really embraced the 6th man role starting last year,” UMHB head coach Mark Morefield said of Martin’s play off the bench. “She gives us leadership and scoring for the second unit.”
She has learned to adjust to the ups and downs that come with a collegiate season after four years and seeing action in 95 games. That includes the recent road trip that featured four games in a six-day span, as the Cru ventured from East Texas to West Texas.
“It’s nothing new for us to run into some controversy throughout the season,” Martin said. “The older players on the team are used to it. Between Covid, and even the snow last year. That makes it easier to adjust.”
Her leadership, along with ever-present work ethic are qualities she hopes will one day land her a job in the Nike marketing department.
“Since I’ve been in school, I’ve added a minor, MMIT,” Martin, a marketing major said. “Since I added that minor, I’ve taken a love to technology and the part that it plays with marketing. I want to change the perspective of women’s sports. I want to work with the basketball aspect more than anything. The evolution of the way they market to women is getting better, and I want to be a part of that.”
What Martin is a part of right now is something she has relished throughout her final collegiate season. Being a part of this team, being a leader on this team, is something that will make this season a memorable one, no matter the final result, for the 5’7 guard.
“My favorite part of leading the team has been watching some of the younger players grow throughout the year,” Martin said, “and how well our team has blended with the influx of transfers recently. We’re truly a player-driven program.”