Original article (NAU Women’s Basketball Head Coach Loree Payne Signs Five-Year Contract Extension) on Northern Arizona University’s athletic website nauathletics.com.

Northern Arizona University has extended the contract of women’s basketball head coach Loree Payne, for five years subject to approval by the Arizona Board of Regents, Vice President of Intercollegiate Athletics Mike Marlow announced on Tuesday.

“Loree Payne has guided our women’s basketball program on an upward trajectory over the course of her five seasons of leadership,” said Mike Marlow, Northern Arizona’s Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics. “She has a championship mentality, big vision for NAU women’s basketball, places a high priority on academics and cares deeply about the young women in her program. NAU is fortunate to have her and I know she feels fortunate to be a part of the Flagstaff community.”

Payne’s five-year tenure with the Lumberjacks has seen the program improve from a 7-23 season in 2017-18 to finishing above .500 for three consecutive seasons. Northern Arizona has won a game at the Big Sky Conference Tournament in the past four seasons, a total of five victories during the stretch culminating in a Big Sky Championship game appearance in Boise, Idaho earlier this month.

Northern Arizona’s 17 wins in 2021-22 marked its highest win total since the 2006-07 season, the last time the team reached the conference title game. Payne’s three consecutive seasons above .500 is the first such stretch since the mid-2000s, and the team’s 34 Big Sky Conference wins is the most in a three-season stretch in program history.

“I am incredibly excited to continue leading the NAU Women’s Basketball program. In five years, we have taken a program that had been consistently at the bottom of the conference to becoming a Big Sky Championship contender,” Payne said. “I am grateful for my staff, as well as our former players who have laid the foundation for a championship program and I am beyond excited for our current and future student-athletes to elevate our program to the next level.

“I would like to thank Mike Marlow and President Cruz Rivera for believing in the vision our staff has set forth and the confidence they have in me to continue leading this program for the years to come,” Payne added. “The future of NAU Women’s Basketball is very bright.”

The 2021-22 Lumberjacks set program records with 2,258 points scored and 848 field goals made. Northern Arizona’s scoring average of 72.8 points per game this past season ranks tied for third in program history, while the team’s field-goal percentage (44.3), three-pointers made (187), three-pointers per game (6.03), free-throw percentage (72.3) and assists (470) all ranked among the top five for a single season by a Lumberjack team.

Led by Emily Rodabaugh and Nina Radford, Northern Arizona’s three-point percentage of 37.2 landed second all-time and missed the program record by 0.5 percent. Radford (40.5 percent) and Rodabaugh (39.6 percent) rank first and third in career three-point percentage at Northern Arizona.

Rodabaugh and Radford are not the only players to make history during Payne’s tenure, as Khiarica Rasheed and Regan Schenck set all-time and single-season marks this past season.

Rasheed concluded her career at this year’s Big Sky Conference Tournament as Northern Arizona’s all-time leader in rebounds, free-throws made and games played while ranking second in points scored and third in field goals made among numerous other top five rankings. Schenck set a new program record for assists in a season with 182 this year and moved to second all-time with 472.

Both Rasheed and Schenck earned All-Big Sky Conference Tournament honors in 2022, the first players to do so for the Lumberjacks since Megan Porter and Alyssa Wahl in 2007. Rasheed also earned three All-Big Sky Conference honors during her career, the first since Amy Patton in 2012 to do so. Six other Lumberjacks have earned All-Big Sky honors during Payne’s tenure, along with a pair of Big Sky Newcomer of the Year awards.

Off the court, Northern Arizona’s program has been ranked in the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Academic Top 25 Team Honor Roll twice and produced the program’s highest GPA since 2001-02 with a 3.646 during the 2019-20 season.

Additionally, the women’s basketball team has totaled 51 Golden Eagle Scholar-Athlete Awards since Payne’s first season in 2018, including a high of 15 from the 2019-20 roster.