SCRANTON -- Joya Whittington of Carbondale led her high school team to the district championships in 2006. With an undefeated record, she led the Chargerettes to the second round of the state playoffs.
Whittington is one of the youngest coaches in the national junior college athletic association. At 25, she is leading the Lackawanna College Lady Falcons down the same road of success. But this time, to a national championship.
Whittington says she lives and coaches her girls by a very simple motto.
"We kind of live by the phrase ‘that I am because we are.’ They realize that they can come here and be different and they can make a difference, and I think it's that discipline and loyalty that we show every day that shows them they can move on and be successful and get a degree,” said Whittington.
Originally from Carbondale, Whittington led the Chargerettes to the district championships back in 2005 and 2006. She went on to play four years at Seton Hill University near Pittsburgh and led the girls there to the NCAA national tournament.
Whittington eventually came home and became the Lackawanna College women's head basketball coach. At the age of 25, Whittington is one of the youngest coaches in the National Junior College Athletic Association.
In just a few months, she's taken this team to an impressive 16 - 5 record. Whittington said it cannot be done alone.
"I had to hire a good coaching staff, because you can't do this alone, no matter what. There are too many responsibilities, especially at this level and when you make it all about the kids you want them have the best experience,” Whittington stated.
Coach Whittington called her team young but hungry. They are led by third-year post player Brittany Nelson who is referred to as the leader of the pack. She got her chance to play in the national tournament her freshman year, something both Nelson and coach Whittington want for the rest of the team.
"It was the best experience of my whole life. Every time I think about it, I just smile and I know that feeling, and I want to go back!" Nelson said.
Newswatch 16's Sofia Ojeda played a little college basketball back in the day, so she wanted to find out if she had what it takes to play for Coach Whittington. She suited up, warmed up, and with just some quick passing drills up and down the court, she knew right away that she was not as fast as she once was. Sofia said they are some very tough girls to play against on the court, but some very nice girls to be around off the court.
Coach Whittington called the team a family. She said they have a bond, that is “bigger than all of them.” These girls have passion, they have heart, and they believe in one another. That's what makes them mesh so well.
"We just have all these girls, who didn't even know each other and all of a sudden in four months, and the biggest thing is staying humble, I tell them I am nothing without you guys and they've taken off with that," Whittington said.