It’s been an up-and-down regular season for the St. Mary-of-the-Woods College women’s basketball team, but it concluded on a definite uptick.
While an 11-15 overall record might not sound impressive, it was good enough to qualify for the United States Collegiate Athletic Association’s national tournament in Uniontown, Pa.
The 16-team tournament runs from Wednesday through Saturday and is being hosted for the fourth consecutive year by Penn State-Fayette.
SMWC, a No. 15 seed, will play Apprentice School (23-2), a No. 2 seed, in its first-round game at 11:15 a.m. Wednesday. Apprentice, a shipbuilding industrial school in Newport News, Va., is ranked No. 2 in the USCAA poll.
“We were an at-large selection two years ago,” SMWC coach Deanna Bradley explained. “Last year we were a bubble team and got knocked out. This year we were a bubble team again, just finding out [Feb. 25] we were in [the tournament].”
Bradley explained the criteria for qualifying teams is based on a formula similar to the NCAA, including strength of schedule, power percentage and the coaches poll.
SMWC bolted out of the gate with a promising 6-2 record then went on a downward spiral, losing six games in a row and nine of 10 games overall. The Pomeroys closed out the regular season splitting their final eight games — three of the losses by a combined 12 points.
“Seems like we start the first half of the season really strong, then we run into some really rough opponents about midway and that takes place for about seven to eight games,” Bradley said. “That kind of bit us in the butt.
“It did help us grow a little bit as a team, as far as chemistry, working and fine-tuning our skills a little bit. But it’s tough to get back on track. For the most part, pretty pleased with the way we ended the regular season.”
Season highlights included junior Brittany Shaner and senior Chelsie Barron reaching the 1,000-points career plateau, the seventh and eighth players to do so in school history, respectively.
Shaner, junior Whitney Allen and sophomore Chelsea Weaver were selected to all-tournament teams this season. Of course, they defeated Rose-Hulman in the annual Clabber Girl Trophy game.
Shaner tops the team in scoring average (20.6), points scored (535), steals (61) and is second in assists (58). Allen (12.4) and Weaver (11.4) also average double figures in scoring. Shaner, Barron, Allen and Weaver all average between 33.2 and 36.5 minutes per game.
Barron and sophomore Lyndsi Woolems average 8.9 and 7.9 points a game, respectively. Barron leads the team in assists (95), tying a school mark with 12 assists in a game in December.
“I’m getting what I expected out of these kids,” Bradley stated. “They’re doing a good job of working together. They’re really unselfish offensively. Now if I can just get them to move a little better defensively, we might win a few more games. But I’m pleased with how these kids have performed this year.”
SMWC has been fortunate with injuries, having just eight players on their active roster. Nine players started the season, but freshman Alaura McKemie (broken leg) was lost after playing just 10 games.
Senior Jenni McLeish-Marietta, a South Vermillion graduate, also missed four games at the start of the season with an ankle injury. She’s playing now, but will likely require additional surgery after the season.
“Kind of a chronic condition … I’m still playing with it,” McLeish-Marietta said. “Beginning of the year I had to sit out a little bit, took me a little while to get it back in shape. Just in time for the tournament, so it kind of worked out nice.”
SMWC has a pair of seniors, this being the second national tournament for one, a first for the other.
“It was a fun experience, a learning experience,” Barron described her playing in this event two years ago. “So hopefully this year we can win it all. We have a really tough schedule and I think we’ve pulled together here at the end, won some games we needed to win.
“Put us as a bubble team. But when we all found out we were going to make it … kind of knew it because we’ve been working really hard, but we were also surprised at the same time.”
McLeish-Marietta played her first two years at Lake Land College, arriving at SMWC as a junior, so this is her first national tournament experience.
“It’s not very nerve-racking, but it’s very exciting,” McLeish-Marietta said. “Looking forward to it definitely.”
SMWC has a 2-4 record against tournament teams. The Pomeroys split games with Robert Morris University-Springfield (No. 8 seed) and Lindenwood-Belleville (No. 10 seed), lost to Spalding (No. 11 seed) and lost in overtime to University of Cincinnati-Clermont (No. 6 seed).
“Fourteen teams that can win it, it’s very balanced,” Bradley predicted.
Win or lose in their tournament opener, the Pomeroys are guaranteed a second game.
On Thursday, they would play either Concordia-Selma or Lindenwood-Belleville at 8 p.m. (by winning their opener) or 8 a.m. — yes, in the morning — (by losing their opener). Semifinals are set for Friday, the third-place and championship games on Saturday.
Season far from over for 11-15 St. Mary-of-the-Woods
It’s been an up-and-down regular season for the St. Mary-of-the-Woods College women’s basketball team, but it concluded on a definite uptick.
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