By Jeff Craig, Sports Writer
A successful season of ACU women’s basketball came to an end Friday night at the hands of West Texas A&M in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division II South Central Region Tournament.
ACU qualified for the tournament by grabbing the South Central’s last at-large spot and the No. 8 seed in the bracket. The Wildcats’ season ended with a 78-53 loss against WTAMU, which rolled into the tournament, having won both the regular and postseason Lone Star Conference championships and also in possession of the region’s No. 1 seed. ACU’s berth in the tournament marked the first time the squad had made the NCAA tournament in four years, and head coach Shawna Lavender said she was proud of all her team had accomplished.
“I think that for our program in general this season was a step in the right direction of where we want to be every year,” Lavender said. “For our seniors, it was great to play in a regional tournament, and for our younger players, it was great for them to learn how to win.”
It looked for a while as if ACU might miss the NCAA Division II tournament after being upset by Texas A&M-Commerce in the first round of the LSC playoffs. However, ACU’s excellent regular season paid off, giving the team enough credentials to qualify for the big dance. The Wildcats were kept in Limbo until word came down the weekend before spring break that they had received an at-large bid.
Unfortunately for the Wildcats, WTAMU proved to be too strong. The Wildcats shot just 34 percent from the field, while the Lady Buffs were able to put together many strong segments of play. West Texas closed out the first half on a 18-6 run and also had a 10-0 run in the second half on its way to knocking off ACU en route to the regional semifinals. All in all, it was a successful year for the women’s team. The Wildcats finished 18-11 in the regular season, good for the No. 2 seed in the LSC South, and accomplished numerous milestones along the way. The team played in the highest scoring game in NCAA history Jan. 5 against Texas Woman’s, won nine of its final 11 games and even knocked off the LSC’s best team in the regular season finale against West Texas A&M. Lavender said she feels her team learned a lot this year and grew along the way.
“I feel that early in the season we didn’t know how many games we would win or even if we would make it to .500,” Lavender said. “The way we played over our final 15 games showed a lot about our character; again, we learned how to win.”
The loss in the NCAA tournament not only signals the end of a great season of ACU basketball but also closes the book on some ACU careers. Forward Kristee Davidson, guard CiCi Davis and center Audrey Maxwell-Lively have all played their final games with ACU. Maxwell-Lively will end her career as one of the school’s greatest players of all time. This season, she eclipsed the 1,000-point mark in the first game and was named all-Conference yet again. Reflecting back on her time at ACU, Maxwell-Lively said she would not change a thing.
“It has been a great place to play. I would not trade any of the experiences I’ve had or any of my teammates for anything,” Maxwell-Lively said. “I have learned a lot over the past four years, and it has been fun to watch us grow.”
The Wildcats look toward the future with much promise. They made the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2005 and will return much of their team. Guards Kat Kundmueller and Kelsey Darby are both only juniors, and sister forwards Jody and Jamie Meyer are in their junior year as well.