March 8, 2007
DOTHAN, Ala. _When fans of Lady Bisons basketball get together years from now and the talk turns to the 2006-2007 season the number of wins or losses won't be the emphasis.
What will be remembered is a team that truly never gave up, no matter what the circumstances. Playing most of the season without three starters _ Miriam McAlister, Kaleigh Gossman and Tiffany Arnold _ the Lady Bisons managed to finish with an 8-21 record, 6-12 during the regular season in the Atlantic Sun.
"I thought this team really competed despite a lot of adversity and being short-handed," Lady Bisons coach Frank Bennett said. "We have some players with a lot of experience that can make a big difference for us when they come back.
"Miriam played two games without a full-scale practice and averaged a double-double. Tiffany had two games in a row in double figures before she got hurt. And Kaleigh was our staring power forward. When you lose that many quality players who are also your taller players it is hard to cover that."
The final game, an 83-69 loss to ETSU in the quarterfinals Thursday night in the A-Sun Tournament, was a typical game for the Lady Bisons who refused to give up no matter what the scoring the deficit might have been.
In the first half ETSU shot 61.3 percent from the floor, hitting 19-of-31 attempts. The Lady Bisons answered with a 46.4 percent first half performance, hitting 13-of-28 tries. Despite the hot shooting of ETSU the Lady Bisons only trailed 45-34.
"In the first half ETSU put us in shock and awe with the way they came out aggressively and shot the ball extremely well," Bennett said. "They were shooting 77 percent at one point.
"I thought we were rattled. We got out of the game plan that we used successfully when we beat them in Nashville. It took us a long time to get into our game. We could have easily lost the game in the first half. I was proud of our team getting back within striking range at halftime."
In the second half the Lady Bisons pulled within eight points of ETSU on four occasions, but struggles at the free throw line combined with the inside game of ETSU proved to be too much to overcome.
"In the second half it was like night and day," Bennett said. "We were attacking them. We were getting ourselves to the foul line. We gave ourselves some chances. We missed a lot of free throws that could have made it a little tighter. And we didn't keep them off the boards in the second half. They got some second shots that really hurt us.
"I was really surprised at the way we were shook in the first half. We had practiced well. And in the last three halves in the two games before this one we had played with great intensity. I thought we were going to really be ready to play."
The Lady Bisons returned to the tournament this season after a one-year absence.
"I don't know if we were rattled because the tournament setting was new for us or not," Bennett said. "For some reason we had a hard time calming down. I called three time outs in the first half."
Junior point guard Catie Woods shot a game-high 22 points, including five-of-nine from the 3-point arc, for the Lady Bisons, tying her career high set earlier this season against ETSU. Also in double figures for the Lady Bisons were junior guard Dana Carrigan with 12 points and sophomore forward Jilian Partin with 11.
"Catie has played this way all year long," Bennett said. "She led the conference in made 3-pointers and she shot a very high percentage. She had an all-conference type of season, but with a record like ours it is hard to get recognition.
"She handles the ball for us. She is a good defender. If she has just a little bit of room she can knock the 3-pointer down."
Senior center Penny Jones led the Lady Bisons on the boards with six. ETSU held a 38-30 rebounding edge.
Four ETSU players finished in double figures. Jenny Norman led with 19. Michele DeVault added 14. Brooke Wilhoit tossed in 12. Devin Thompson scored 11.
The Lady Bisons are already looking ahead to next year. Bennett is hopeful about the return of his injured players and is still on the recruiting trail.