Appalachian State Women’s Basketball: 2011-12 Season Review

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.

Appalachian State Women’s Basketball: Virginia Postgame (WNIT)

The result might not have been what they were hoping for, but the Mountaineer women have to feel pretty good about the season they had. Despite failing to win the Southern Conference tournament and earning a bid to the NCAA tournament, Appalachian (27-7) made the most of their season in the end. Appalachian only lost seven games all season long, but two of those games were to the Virginia Cavaliers, the first game and the last. The second game was a much more respectable score, but in the end, Appalachian could not stop the hot shooting of the Cavaliers who prevailed 74-58. Virginia shot 57% for the game and forced 28 Mountaineer turnovers, which they converted into 35 points. Those three statistics pretty much sum up the game. Every Mountaineer who played turned the ball over at least once.

One bright spot of the WNIT for Appalachian was the play of freshman Katie Mallow. She started each game in the WNIT, and score double figures in each game, averaging 14.3 points per game. Anna Freeman averaged 17.6 points per game in the WNIT, highlighted by a 26 point performance against NC State. The development of a second and third consistent scorer, coupled with Maryah Sydnor, on this team will only open up the game more for Anna Freeman next season.

WNIT Third Round: Appalachian State Women’s Basketball @ Virginia

Appalachian hopes to erase the memories of the first game they played this season, against these same Virginia Cavaliers in the WNIT’s Sweet 16 on Thursday Night in Charlottesville. Virginia defeated Richmond on Monday night 68-55 and were led by senior Ariana Moorer, who tallied 16 points, 8 assists and five steals. The game marked the 25th time this season that Virginia held an opponent to fewer than 60 points. Appalachhian is among those twenty-five, as they lost to Virginia 80-48.

In the first game, just by looking at a boxscore, one can tell that Appalachian has changed a lot since that game, and did not particularly play well. Anna Freeman fouled out and only played 19 minutes. Raven Gary, who has started some games in the latter part of the season for the Mountaineers, only played two minutes. Marayh Sydnor and Katie Mallow combined for 6/18 shooting in 52 combined minutes. I expect the freshman to play a much larger role in this game, now that they have some experience, compared to their first game as collegians.

I surely dont expect another thirty point loss. Appalachian has experience in games of this magnitude. After the emtional win on Saturday, the Mountaineers have had some time to celebrate and refocus on the task at hand. Besides playing each other earlier in the season, the only other common opponent was NC State. Both teams won their respective games in Raleigh with Virginia beating the Wolfpack by eight points, and the Mountaineers winning by four points.

Appalachian State Women’s Basketball: NC State Postgame (WNIT)

Appalachian State won its second ever WNIT game and first ever game over North Carolina State with a 66-62 win in the second round of the WNIT. North Carolina State jumped out to a seven point lead on the strength of Kody Burke, who had 17 of the Wolfpack’s first 23 points. However the story of the game was what Appalachian was able to do to NC State in the second half. The defensive pressure increased and NC State was careless with the basketball, and the Mountianeers started winning more of those “50-50” balls. The Mountaineers shot 58% from the field in the second half. NC State, who scored eight points from the free throw line in the first half was limited to only six attempts from the charity stripe in the second half, making only three of them.

Despite trailing by six at halftime, the way the Mountaineers forced their game in the second half was very telling. It was obvious the Mountianeers were going to win the game after the first media timeout in the second half. Even though the Mountaineers still trailed by four points, you could tell that NC State was being outhustled by the Mountaineers.  It wasn’t anything you could see in a box score, but the energy the Mountaineers brought to the court was definitely higher in the second half.

Anna Freeman had another one of her outstanding performaces, scoring 26 points, most of them coming in the second half. Anna also added seven rebounds and six steals. Katie Mallow scored 14 points in her second career start in as many games. Maryah Sydnor added 9 points and 6 rebounds.

Next up for the Mountaineers is the winner of Richmond and Virginia, who play on Monday Night. That game will most likely be played on the road, sometime between Wednesday and Friday.

Appalachian State Women’s Basketball @ UNC-Wilmington (WNIT)

Appalachian State will play UNC-Wilmington in the first round of the WNIT. The only common opponent between the two schools was Georgia State, who Appalachian beat easily in November 2011. The Seahawks played Georgia State three times this season, winning all three, by 3, 10, and 7 points. Appalachian has a slightly higher RPI at 70, compared to UNCW who is ranked at 77, but will be on the road for the first round. North Carolina State is the likely opponent for the winner.