Women’s basketball team moves up in Division III rankings
February 9, 2012 By Matt Montavon, Sports Information Intern
record this season, remains undefeated in the Southern
Collegiate Athletic Conference and has won 16 games straight.
As the Centre women’s basketball team nears the home stretch of its 2011-12 season, it does so as one of the hottest teams in the country and one with a chance to reach the highest win total in program history.
The Colonels currently have a 19-1 overall record, a 12-0 mark in Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference play and have won 16 straight games dating back to a Nov. 22 loss to Thomas More. In fact, Centre has yet to lose in regulation this season — that 80-79 defeat came after a desperation 3-pointer by Thomas More at the buzzer sent the game to overtime. Though it hasn’t come easily and the team has found itself trailing several times, the season has brought nothing but victories since.
“It’s just been a really fun season up to this point,” said head coach Wendie Austin-Robinson. “We have a really wonderful group of young women who are really focused on the goals they want to achieve. They have already exceeded the expectations (assistant coach) Tom (Campbell) and I had. They are a very resilient bunch and have a toughness, a love for each other and for the game. Even in tough games, they’ve managed to stick together and find a way to win.”
Though it took some time for the Colonels’ success to gain attention nationally, they are beginning to work their way up both major Division III polls. Centre finally reached the top 25 of the USA Today/ESPN Coaches’ Poll on Jan. 17 and is currently ranked #19, while in the D3Hoops.com poll, Centre is currently at #23 after making its first appearance last week. The appearances marked the first time Centre was ranked nationally since the 2000-01 season.
“We haven’t focused on the rankings a lot,” Austin-Robinson added. “It was a nice honor, and we’re excited about it, but that just drives us to keep getting better. People have asked if it adds pressure, and it doesn’t really add pressure. It just makes us want to keep going.”
During the run, the Colonels have benefitted greatly from the leadership of a rare eight-member senior class. Though reigning SCAC Player of the Year Maggie Prewitt and fellow starters Lauren Huter and Alyson Burke typically get most of the recognition of that group, Austin-Robinson is quick to note that the contributions of classmates Jane Goatley, Cailynn West, Aubrey Holle, Alexis Anderson and Elizabeth Bressler are critical to the team’s success as well.
“It’s really a credit to all eight of them for sticking with it,” said Austin-Robinson. “All eight play different roles, and they work very hard and embrace those roles. It’s never about each one of them, it’s about what they can do for the team. We’ve always had a family atmosphere, and the seniors are the ones who really set the tone and carry that for us. Each one of them leads in a different way, whether it’s on the court or off the court.”
That’s not to say there haven’t been plenty of individual accomplishments within the group as well. Junior Chelsea Benham and sophomore Paige Baechle average double figures in scoring while Huter reached the 1,000 point plateau during the season and is currently 60 rebounds away from the school’s all-time mark. Prewitt has become one of the top players in Division III, leading the team in scoring at 16.6 points per game, leading all of Division III in assists at 7.3 per game and posting one of just 13 triple doubles nationally this year with 14 points, 17 rebounds and 12 assists in a Jan. 20 win over Southwestern. As she moves up Centre’s all-time lists, Prewitt ranks third in career scoring, first in assists and first in 3-pointers made.
“Maggie is probably our greatest competitor, and that’s really special,” said Austin-Robinson, herself a former standout player who ranks fifth on Centre’s all-time scoring list. “She’s a great player, but she’s probably the most humble person on this team. When you put it all together, it really works. She does a great job on and off the court, and she has a great balance of knowing when to really compete and when to be very light for us. She’s just a fun person to be around.”
With four games remaining before the SCAC Tournament and potentially the NCAA Tournament, the Colonels could be on the verge of a truly special season. The 12-0 record in SCAC play is Centre’s best since an undefeated league campaign in the 1992-93 season, and at 19 wins, the team is within striking distance of the school record of 23. Beyond that, the Colonels would like to win the conference tournament and qualify for the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2001.
Still, with those goals so close, Austin-Robinson is cautious of her team getting ahead of itself. With two of the remaining games coming against Millsaps and Rhodes, which are tied for second place in the conference behind Centre, a slip-up down the stretch could hurt the team’s chances for the #1 seed in the conference tournament or possibly an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament.
“We try not to get caught up in all the wins, and we try to just keep getting better every day,” Austin-Robinson said. “Whatever our record is, we would still be in practice trying to focus on our details and fundamentals, which is big in our philosophy. We want to be the most prepared team that we can be, because this is what you work for. The last four games of our regular season are the toughest four we’ll have so far. It should get us prepared for the conference tournament and hopefully the NCAA Tournament. The kids have worked so hard, and I would love for these seniors to reach those goals.”
Centre goes on the road this weekend to face Birmingham-Southern on Friday and Oglethorpe on Sunday before returning home to wrap up the regular season with Millsaps on Feb. 17 and Rhodes on Feb. 19.
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Centre College, founded in 1819 and chosen to host its second Vice Presidential Debate in 2012, is ranked among the U.S. News top 50 national liberal arts colleges, at 42nd in the nation, and ranks 27th for best value among national liberal arts colleges. Forbes magazine ranks Centre 34th among all the nation’s colleges and universities and has named Centre in the top five among all institutions of higher education in the South for three years in a row. Centre is also ranked fourth in the nation by U.S. News for its study abroad program. For more, click here.