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Former Lady Blue Devil’s journey leads to NCAA berth

DHS graduate Nikol Allison cuts down the net after helping Cal Poly win the Big West Tournament Championship on Saturday in Anaheim. The Mustangs found out Monday that they will face Penn State next Sunday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Courtesy photo

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From page B1 | March 19, 2013 |

Nikol Allison is headed to The Dance.

The former Davis High basketball star has been an inspirational mainstay of Big West Tournament champion Cal Poly’s season-long surge — and now Allison finds herself headed to Baton Rouge, La., for an NCAA first-round game against Big 10 regular-season winner Penn State.

Listen to Nikol’s mom, Helena. She knew her daughter’s Mustangs were going places — and now, according to Mom, Penn State is in big trouble.

Camped out at The Graduate restaurant on Monday afternoon, Helena, her son Michal, husband Mike Goodison and friend Lorrie Thornton were chatting with the media:

“We’ll beat anybody, anywhere (in) that first game,” reported Nikol’s upbeat mom — even before finding out what opponent lay in wait.

Helena didn’t know where the Mustangs would go next weekend, but she was confident. Cell phone in hand, Mom waited for the ESPN selection show to begin on the big screen at the popular student hangout.

Nikol’s family didn’t have to wait long …

Just five minutes into the ESPN program came the announcement: As part of what’s known as the Spokane Regional, Cal Poly earned a No. 14 seed and meets the No. 3 Nittany Lions on Sunday.

Helena, jumping for joy at the location (Michal, a footballer and rugby maven for DHS wants to play for LSU someday), was immediately busy on her phone: a message to Nikol, a quick look at flights to Louisiana, well-wishing texts to which she was busy replying.

The Goodisons traveled to Anaheim on Saturday when Cal Poly beat Pacific for the league crown. Helena is overflowing with positive energy at the realization that the journey has yet to end for her courageous senior offspring Nikol.

Battling a nagging back injury that robbed the 2009 DHS graduate of most of her first three seasons down south, Allison bucked the odds and returned to average 6.5 ppg and be the third-leading rebounder for Cal Poly.

The Mustangs went 21-10 (13-5 in the BWC) this winter. Allison led her team in scoring four times this winter — including a career-high 22 points in a 79-69 loss at UC Davis on Feb. 9. The 6-foot-2 forward also paced Cal Poly in rebounding on six occasions.

Nikol’s dad Craig and sister Rachael (a Lady Blue Devil freshman standout) won’t get a chance to attend the Louisiana openers, but if Cal Poly advances, the pair hopes to be there.

“I’m so proud of Nikki. How hard she’s worked,” Dad says of his daughter. “We always knew basketball was her passion. And she worked so hard to overcome the injuries … and now to join those student-athletes that get to go to an NCAA (tournament), it’s rarified air.

“I was thinking this first round might see us with a Baylor or Connecticut. We have the potential to compete with this team. To Penn State I’d say, ‘Better not overlook Cal Poly.’ ”

Allison, who replaced Kayla Griffin (knee injury) just minutes into the second half of the Mustangs’ 63-49, title-game win over Pacific on Saturday, scored 10 points and grabbed three offensive rebounds. There’s no word yet, but if Griffin is out next week, Allison could get the start against Penn State.

Meanwhile …

“Mom’s been frantically looking for flights out,” Nikol told The Enterprise shortly after talking with Helena on Monday afternoon.

Will the family get to spend any time with their daughter?

“I’m not really sure. I don’t know what the rules are … or what the coaches have in store for us. But I hope so,” Allison said, adding, “I’m sure we’ll be able to go to dinner, or something.”

Asked about how her back is feeling, Nikol said “it is still painful,” but reminded fans, “Saturday was the best day of my life. How happy I am in so many ways. I dreamed that I would have just one good year (in which) I’d be healthy. (The NCAA tournament) was not necessarily where I thought I was going … it’s just amazing that we’re going and that I can contribute to this team.

“I know my team’s been waiting — and we’ve been so close every year — and finally got it and I was actually able to be out on the court for it. That’s like the best feeling ever. I can’t even put into words how excited I am.”

Now what?

Helena and Mike are keeping the next two weeks open.

“You just never know,” the super-positive Helena explains, continuing:

“I am just so proud of her… What she has overcome and how she has helped lift her team. This is all so exciting.”

Notes: Nikol Allison becomes the first former Blue Devil to appear in the NCAA Women’s Tournament. Legendary Denise Curry (Class of 1976) led UCLA to the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women title in 1978, but the inaugural NCAA tournament wasn’t played until 1982. … Penn State (25-5) and Cal Poly meet at 2 p.m. Sunday in the Maravich Center on campus at LSU. Should Cal Poly beat the Lions, it will get — gulp — the home-standing SEC runner-up Tigers (20-11) on Tuesday. Michigan State knocked PSU from the Big 10 postseason event, which eventually was won by upstart Purdue. … UCD won the Big West in 2011 and was greeted by a road game at No. 1 Stanford. The Aggies lost. The Cardinal is the No. 1 seed again in Cal Poly’s regional (with Cal seeded second at the opposite end of the bracket). … One of Nikol’s brothers, David,  is a 2006 DHS graduate and former basketball player. Her oldest sibling, Jakub, was a member of the 2002 U.S. Olympic ski team.

— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at bgallaudet@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8047.

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