By RACHEL WEST – MANAGING EDITOR
In the end, it wasn’t the season that the Centre College Women’s Basketball team had envisioned, but it was a good one all the same.
The team’s season ended on Sun., March 2, when they fell 79-60 to Rhodes College in a hard-fought final game of the Southern Athletic Association (SAA) Conference Championship. It’s a loss that stings, since any member of the team will tell you that their biggest goal for the season was to win the tournament.
Despite the loss, however, the team is happy overall with their season and the progress that they have shown. As sophomore guard Alexis Guy said, the conference championship might have been their biggest goal, but it certainly wasn’t their only one.
“Our main goal was to be SAA Champions, but unfortunately we fell short of it,” Guy said. “However, that was not our only goal. We wanted to build a family who loved each other and would do anything for one another. We succeeded in this goal, which means more than winning a game because these girls are my family.”
It’s a sentiment that seems to echo throughout the team, a team that always seems willing to hand the praise off to someone else.
The team had a number of standout performances throughout the year.
On Tues., March 4, five members of the team were given SAA honors, including senior forward Paige Baechele, a First Team All-SAA member who was ranked second in the conference in scoring and rebounding; senior forward Mary Gordon Stough, who shot 51 percent from the floor this season; junior guard Alanna Guy, ranked fourth in the conference in assists; junior guard Maggie Hartlage, ranked fourth in three-pointers made; and Guy, who was ranked seventh in the league in free throws.
Despite standout play, the focus is always on the team. “Our team dynamic revolves around a group effort rather than individualistic talent,” Guy said. “Each girl has her own skill set that she brought to practice each and everyday. We worked hard to improve every aspect of our game but not for ourselves, for our team.
“In eliminating the individualistic mindset and focusing on the team camaraderie, the team as a whole was able to have each others’ backs and come together as a family. Having girls who were willing to work hard for each other made this season as successful as it was.”
A major part of this dynamic came from their coaches, Head Coach Wendie Austin-Robinson and Assistant Coach Tom Campbell.
“The coaches have dedicated much of their time to this program. Without the effort and dedication that the coaches put into the team this year, we would not have been able to come together as a team and reach the goals that we did,” Guy said.
The team’s dedication and focus on the team rather than the individual seems to have paid off for the women’s basketball players.
Their final record was a respectable 18-10, with a 10-4 record in SAA Conference play against a very talented field. The team was a wonder on the boards, where they posted an average of 40 rebounds per game, and at the free throw line, where they shot over 75 percent.
The Colonels also posted huge wins over conference rivals like Hendrix College on Feb. 21, who they handily defeated 81-38, and Berry College on Feb. 9, who they handed an 80-64 loss in a brilliant second half surge.
Hard regular season losses to Millsaps College on Feb. 16, where Millsaps surged forward in the second half to win 63-58, and Rhodes College on Feb. 2, which Rhodes took 66-59, only spurred the team forward toward the SAA Championship game.
As Guy put it, the tournament itself was full of chances. “Beating Millsaps in the second round of the tournament was a satisfactory win, especially since we lost to them two weekends prior to the conference tournament,” Guy said, referring to the second round 78-65 win in which Guy scored 21 points and earned her spot on the All-Tournament SAA team.
Even if they didn’t win the title, Guy explained that just making it to the championship was a big deal for the members of the team.
“I would say the high point of this season was making it to the SAA Conference Championship game,” Guy said. “Last year we lost in the very first round of the tournament, so making it to the championship game was a huge accomplishment for us.”
Now that their season is over, the team won’t be resting on their laurels. Next year’s prospects seem good, with the team only graduating two seniors, Baechele and Stough, and with early recruiting reports coming back positive.
In the meantime, Guy said the team will be preparing to come back better than ever. The Colonels are also sure to have next year’s matchup against Rhodes circled on the calendar.
“We are only taking a short break to give our legs time to recover, but we will soon start open gyms and team workouts,” Guy said. “During our offseason, we focus on building muscle as well as improving our foot speed; we do speed and agility workouts.”