With our last teams eliminated from postseason play, it’s time to empty out a very full WAC Hoops Digest notebook.
Three WAC teams qualified for postseason play in Stephen F. Austin (Auto bid to NCAA Tourney), GCU (Auto bid WNIT), and CBU (At-Large WNIT).
It was not a good postseason as all three teams lost in the first round of their respective tournaments.
But the Lady ‘Jacks made a big mark nationally as part of the group of Mid-Majors either scaring or upsetting higher seeded Power 6 teams. For a second straight year, Stephen F. Austin drew an ACC team. This time, North Carolina, as an opening round opponent. Unfortunately, for a second straight year, the Lady ‘Jacks put a scare into that ACC team but fell in the opening round.
North Carolina trailed for much of the game but used a 25-10 fourth quarter to catch and then overtake Stephen F. Austin…prevailing 79-66 at the McKale Center in Tucson, Arizona. Zya Nugent had 26 points on 5-10 from 3-point range to lead SFA while Aiyana Johnson added 11 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 assists in defeat. Stephen F. Austin finishes 28-5 with WAC regular season & tournament titles in their inaugural season.
GCU, CBU Lose in First Round of WNIT
Prior to that game we had two WNIT games involving WAC teams. It started Wednesday evening as GCU visited a New Mexico team known for possessing one of the nation’s top collections of three point shooters. The Lobos did not disappoint, knocking down an impressive fourteen three pointers, en route to a 92-72 victory at home. Tiarra Brown led the Lopes with 22 points while Jay McChristine and Dominique Phillips added 18 and 10 respectively. Leading scorer Amara Graham was held to 5 points on 2-5 FG’s. Molly Miller’s second season in Phoenix ends at 22-10 overall with WAC regular season and tournament runner up finishes as well as the program’s first postseason since 2015.
A night later USD, an at-large WNIT selection from the WCC, visited the Events Center in Riverside for a first round matchup against CBU. In a game that was much closer than the final score indicates, the Toreros prevailed 76-67. Caitlyn Harper led the Lancers with 19 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 blocks. In her final game as a Lancer, Ane Olaeta had 16 points and 5 assists while Trinity San Antonio added 12 points.
The loss also completes CBU’s four-year transition to Division I.
“Not too many programs have done the transition better than we have,” CBU head coach Jarrod Olson said. “Caitlyn, Ane, Britney, and Georgia are a big part of that success and we couldn’t have been prouder of all they accomplished in this transition.”
CBU’s 83 wins ranks fourth out of 49 teams who have transitioned since ’97-’98. In order, Abilene Christian (84), South Dakota St (92), and FGCU (100) are the only three programs with more wins during their move up to the next level. The Lancers made three WNIT appearances in four years and were likely headed for a WBI spot when COVID-19 wiped out 2020 postseason play.
Thank you CBU Assistant Director of Athletics Communications Daniel Cook for the research.
Olaeta finishes her career with a program-leading 869 career assists and is a member of the 1,000-point club along with Georgia Dale. Thomas finished just three points shy of the 1,000-point club.
As of Monday morning when I am working on this, 533 players have put their names into the Transfer Portal according to wbbblog.com. Unfortunately, 19 players are from current WAC schools. Here is the list as it currently sits and listed in alphabetical order. Grad transfers are noted with a bold G.
Paige Emborsky 5-6 SR PG (G)
Caitlyn Harper 6-1 RS JR F (G)
Sydney Palma 5-9 RS JR G (G)
Oceane Robin 6-0 JR W
Giuliana Marinozzi 5-11 FR G
Ambranette Storr 5-9 SO G>>Detroit Mercy
New Mexico State:
Rodrea Echols 5-9 RS SR G (G)
Melanie Isbell 5-4 RS SO PG
Georgia Kehoe 6-3 RS JR F (G)
Courtney Murphy 6-0 SR SG (G)
Iyana Dorsey 5-6 SO Combo Guard
Sara Bershers 6-0 SO G
Brooke Jessen 6-0 FR F
Maria Llorente 5-9 JR G
Jessica Martino 5-10 SR F
A’nnika Saenz 5-11 FR G
Mariya Taser 5-9 FR G
Maria Carvalho 5-8 JR G
Megan Jensen 6-3 JR C
Atkinson out at New Mexico State:
After a 10-19 overall campaign and just 6 wins in WAC play, New Mexico State Athletic Director Mario Moccia announced that Aggie head coach Brooke Atkinson, in the final year of her current deal, will not have her contract renewed upon its expiration on April 30th.
In five seasons, her overall mark was 75-68. Atkinson was also 46-30 in WAC play. The Aggies won two regular season titles, one tournament title, and earned a WNIT berth under her leadership.
In a New Mexico State release Moccia remarked, “We are grateful for the contributions Coach Atkinson added to our women’s basketball program on and off the floor during her 13 years as a dedicated member of the Aggie coaching staff. She consistently represented NM State with class and dignity throughout her years spent in Las Cruces.”