Darcie Vincent added another record breaking season for the Mountaineers in her fourth season. Vincent broke the record she set the previous season in program wins with 27 wins this season. For the second season in a row, she won at least a share of the conference regular season championship. However, there is one goal that has eluded Vincent and the Mountaineers: the SoCon Tournament Championship and NCAA berth that comes with it. Samford has ended the Mountaineers tournament in each of the last three seasons, twice in the championship game.
It is tough for your entire season to come down to three flawless days of basketball. Before the SoCon tournament, Appalachian was 23-5, with three losses in conference, and two out of conference, to Virginia and Georgia. There was not one game the Mountaineers lost that they “should have” won or vice versa. Losing in conference is something that is almost unavoidable when you play a team twice a year, however, Davidson did have the Mountaineers number this year. The unfortunate part, is handling Samford twice in the regular season and not being able to complete the season sweep in the tournament.
The post season tournaments in women’s basketball gives teams that much more practice time and game time to prepare for the nest season. Two seasons ago, Appalachian was invited to play in the inaugural Women’s Basketball Invitational. Even though the 16 team field lacked a lot of big names, it did include high profile schools from power conferences like Washington, Louisville, and Memphis. Those four extra games were important for Appalachian to grow as a team. Appalachian won their first three games by double digits and came back from a double digit deficit to defeat Memphis in the championship game. Last year, Appalachian advanced to the WNIT, but was ousted in the first round by South Carolina. This season, the Mountaineers won two games in WNIT, both games on the road where they were considered underdogs. UNC-Wilmington is in the Colonial Athletic Association and was ranked 7th in the conference RPI. NC State and the Atlantic Coast Conference are ranked 6th in the RPI. Appalachian and Southern Conference are ranked 14th. It is fairly easy to see the improvement that has been made in the past three seasons. The difference in ACC, SEC, and CAA teams are the size difference. Appalachian may have addressed that this year in recruiting.
Even though Appalachian lost four seniors, we must look ahead to the future class of Mountaineers. Three of them are 5’10” or taller and fit the mold that Vincent prefers. They all like defense and like rebounding the basketball. LaShawna Gatewood (Twinsburg, OH) is listed at 5’11” and can play either the two-guard or wing. Her high school won state championships her junior and senior seasons. She averaged 4.5 rebounds a game from the guard position. Bria Huffman (Clover, SC) is another 5’10” G/F who is also a great defender, averaging 3.4 steals per game her senior season. However, Huffman is best known as a scorer. Huffman averaged double digit scoring her final three years in high school, capped with a 17.8 point per game average in her senior season. Khadejah Wilkerson (Greensboro, NC) is a 6’1″ forward who is a dominant presence in the post. Her Greensboro Day team was a state runner up and Wilkerson was named an all state honoree. Wilkerson averaged a double-double her sophomore year. Farrahn Wood (Lewisville, NC) is a 5’8″ guard who is a pure shooter. She holds the Forsyth Country Day record for three pointers in a game with nine. Possibly could be considered a Katie Mallow clone with better defense. Wood averaged 9.8 points per game her senior year to go along with 4.8 rebounds.