Saturday, March 02, 2013
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Hannah Phillips never thought her basketball career would end in Allen Arena.
She knew that if the Lipscomb Lady Bisons could beat North Florida Saturday night that a trip to Macon, Ga., and the Atlantic Sun Tournament would be in the her future. Phillips, who led the Purple and Gold in scoring this season, kept the faith until the final buzzer.
“I never thought we weren’t going to the tournament until the end of the game,” Phillips said. “We always had a chance and that was always my ultimate goal.”
But after leading by 10 points at the half, the Lady Bisons ended their season with a 61-49 loss.
“We knew after our motion offense looked good that UNF was going to a zone,” Lipscomb coach Greg Brown said. “Then it came down to us having to put ourselves into position to make plays.
“We missed some shots. We got a little tight. The further the game went we didn’t get as many stops. We gave up a couple of offensive boards. It was a possession here and a possession there.”
Brown told his players what the situation was as far as tournament hopes.
“I don’t typically deal with that, but there was some misinformation out there,” Brown said. “We thought it was better to talk about the elephant in the room. They are smart kids. They were aware of it.
“It was a tournament-type setting. We had talked about it. At some point you have to play or you go home.”
It was fitting that Phillips was the leading scorer in her final game with 21 points. Guard Kelli Smith added 14, which tied her career high, also against North Florida earlier this season. She has averaged 10.6 points per game for her last five.
Phillips, who became a reliable outside shooter this season, was not a 3-point threat until she came to Lipscomb. She credits former Lady Bisons assistant Billy Snell, and Coach Brown for their work with her outside shooting.
“I became a much better player here,” Phillips said. “In high school I liked to drive and take jump shots or dish it off. That was my game.”
Phillips became the fifth Lady Bisons player in the NCAA era to score more than 1,000 points in her career. She hopes that she was an example to her teammates to follow.
“I might not have been the loudest player or the most vocal,” Phillips said. “But I tried to lead by example…by how I played. I wanted to have a good attitude. Basketball is a fun sport and I love it. I want the other players to know that too.
“I was so thankful to have Coach Brown work with us this year and Coach (Frank) Bennett for three years. Everything was great.”
The Lady Bisons, paced by forward Alex Banks with six rebounds, held a 36-31 advantage on the boards.
Also honored with Phillips on “Senior Night” was Chelsea McMeans who has been sidelined for most of the season.
North Florida placed three players in double figures in scoring - guard Ki Conner with 18, center Raneisha Lamar with 16 and guard Destinee Smith with 11.
The Lady Bisons finished the season with a 3-26 record, 2-16 in the A-Sun. North Florida heads into the A-Sun Tournament with an 11-18 worksheet, 7-11 in the conference.
Minutes after the North Florida loss, Brown was looking forward to the rest of the spring and summer in preparation for his second season.
“It is going to take a few days to sink in,” Brown said. “It is times like this when you look back and then look forward. We will be looking at areas of improvement. There is a great rule change and we can work with them this summer.
“I appreciate what the seniors did for us in trying to establish a culture. We have several things to build on. We have some high skill level kids with good motors coming in here for next season. That will make the players that are here better.”
Two of the brightest spots this season have been freshmen Banks and Kelli Smith.
“Kelli has done a great job,” Brown said. “Her shot has gotten quicker. That is an adjustment for any player from high school to college. She got her shots off in this game. People have had to adjust to her and treat her differently.
“She listens incredibly well. She doesn’t just hear. She listens and tries to execute. I had heard nothing but great things about Kelli and her work ethic. She did everything we asked her to do.”
Banks is in the running for A-Sun Freshman of the Year. She is the only LU player to start in all 29 games this season.
“You can’t ask much more from a freshman than what Alex has been able to do,” Brown said. “I knew what Alex was capable of. She is a competitor.
“She really improved as far as her poise and composure in shooting and being comfortable with the ball. She knew we had to have her score.”
Brown admitted it doesn’t seem all that long ago that he was standing in the Hall of Fame room at the press conference that introduced him to LU fans. Despite the record he will have fond memories of his first Lipscomb team.
“This has been a great bunch,” Brown said. “We know how hard we have to work. We know what we have to do as a staff. We will put those roles and goals out in front of the players pretty soon.”