next season starts November 7th...R U Ready?

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

last post of the season

Now that it's been almost 2 weeks since our season ended, I finally feel like writing about the final games of our season. I've had so many people tell me since our final loss that once the hurt of losing wears off that we will look back on this season and be very proud of what we accomplished. I don't know that any of us will ever be able to erase the memories of losing the championship game from our minds but now I am beginning to realize just what an incredible season our girls put together this year. I have our post season media guide hanging just behind my computer on the wall and the more I look at the list of accolades on it, the more impressed I am by our girls. The accomplishments listed are: Back to Back 20 win seasons / Back to Back Big South Conference Championship Appearances / Preseason WNIT Berth / Four Big South Postseason Award Winners / Two Big South All-Tournament Team Honorees / Second Most Wins in School History / All Time Big South and Radford Individual Shot Block Records / School Record for Blocks in a Season / Preseason Big South Conference Favorite / Two 1000 Point Scorers / Ranked in Top 10 Nationally in Steals and Blocked Shots. The front of the postseason media guide highlights Johnette Walker for making All Big South 2nd team and Big South All Academic Team, Kelli Darden for being named Big South Defensive Player of the Year, First Team All Big South, and Big South All Tournament Team, and Taleia Moton for making the Big South All Rookie Team and also being named to the Big South All Tournament Team. If that list isn't enough for you, I feel like we had a few that were left off of the all conference list but that's an entirely different story. Anyway, my last post was the day before we left to go to Asheville for the conference tournament and we were all very excited about what the week held for us. The atmosphere around the hotel was really fun to be a part of. Every team stays at the Doubletree Hotel in Asheville and the hotel staff wears team jerseys and referee shirts. They really set it up nice for the teams and everybody there was excited about the tournament. Our girls were mostly excited about the free doubletree cookies and the snack room that was open all day everyday. On Thursday night after we had practice, we went to the tournament banquet at the Biltmore Country Club. I have to say that our team was the best dressed and best looking group there. How could they not be when they have the best looking coaching staff in the conference?!! It's always fun to see everyone dressed up and hear the announcement of the all conference teams. It's MORE fun to hear our girls crack jokes for the entire dinner about what other people are wearing, how short Kelli's skirt was, and how tough it was for Johnette to walk in her high heels. Once the banquet was over, the attention shifted to the real reason everyone was there: the games. We had to play UNCA in the first round in a rematch of last year's championship game and we knew they would throw everything they had at us. Asheville is always a tough team to beat in the Justice Center and they always play well in front of a big (and very loud) crowd. It took double overtime to beat them (50 minutes of basketball!) but we came out with a great win and looked forward to a 2nd round matchup with Winthrop. The Winthrop game was in my opinion one of our best defensive showings all season. The girls defended and rebounded like they finally understood what it was going to take to win a championship. I was so proud of them and everyone around us was excited about the championship game. I have to add that we had so much support cheering for us the whole weekend. Along with all of our families, President Kyle, Dr. Dore and her husband, Dr. Pomerantz, and Mr. Lineburg made the trip to Asheville to cheer us on. The dance team and the cheerleaders got them out of their seats and made us feel very loved. I don't think they realize what it meant to the girls to have all of that red in the stands helping us out. When our team walked out of the hotel to board the bus on Sunday morning, they had a tunnel of people led by the cheerleaders and dance team with signs and loud cheers. I thought it was a great moment for our team to experience.
As most of you reading this know, the championship game didn't turn out exactly as we would have liked. Losing any game on a buzzer beater is tough, but losing the way we did in a game that could've put us in the Big Dance was one of the toughest games I've ever been involved in. With just over 5 seconds remaining, we had a one point lead and the ball under Liberty's basket. We called a timeout to set up our press break and knew that Liberty had to foul us to stop the clock. It is my opinion (and the opinion of most everyone else sitting in that gym) that Taleia got tripped, pushed, fouled...whatever you want to call it as she broke to the ball. Kelli passed the ball into Taleia as she was hitting the floor and the official under the basket said that Taleia traveled. Taleia just didn't trip over her own two feet. In a matter on one possession, our entire mood shifted. Our bench was in a state of shock. Did he really just call that? The last play of the game is a blur for me. Frazee's shot fell through the net with 0.2 seconds on the clock and Liberty started to celebrate. I hurt so much for our kids. They wanted that game so bad and I think they deserved to win it. Leaving the gym that day, I had alot of people tell me that we got screwed, that we had a great year, and that we could still make some noise in the WNIT. I really didn't want to hear any of that. I wanted the officials to watch the tape and let the teams come back replay that last possession...put T on the free throw line...and let her ice the game. I wanted to be inside the gym cutting the nets down. I wanted to see Kelli and Vandy's victory dance that was going to make them famous on Sportscenter. I wanted our kids to get a championship more than I've ever wanted anything else. Like I said earlier, we won't ever forget that game, but I hope no one around here forgets this entire season. It was a great one.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

it's tournament time

I apologize to anyone who reads our blog on a regular basis for not writing for the last week. (even though I think the only people who really keep up with this share my last name!) Hopefully the season our girls are having has gained us a few more fans and hopefully our alumni are proud to read about their alma mater's success. If that's the case, then I really hope you haven't given up on me writing regularly. Since I last wrote, our seniors played and won their last game in the Dedmon Center. It was an emotional night for Kelli, Corrie, Serena, their families, and our players and staff. The senior day game was not only an important day for our seniors, it was an important day in the race for the #2 seed in the Big South Conference Tournament. Our performance last Saturday gave us a 67-54 win and locked up our 2nd place finish in the regular season. It was a great way to send our seniors out and gave us alot of confidence going into our last regular season game at Liberty.
The Liberty game didn't turn out exactly as we'd hoped but we did play a very solid game. We got off to a slow start in Lynchburg but our girls battled back to make it a one possession game and briefly took the lead with under 5 minutes to play. With us fouling late in the game, the final score really didn't show how close the game actually was. I think our team realizes that Liberty is definitely not unbeatable and we are looking forward to a potential championship game rematch. We are not looking past the first 2 rounds of the tournament by any means, but I would personally be excited to see Liberty again with everything on the line.
Tomorrow afternoon, we leave Radford heading to Asheville, NC for the final test of the season. This is our final exam and I think our girls are ready. We have the opportunity to face UNC-Asheville in the first round in a rematch of last year's conference championship game and our preparation this week has been going very well. I promise to write more from our hotel before the game!

Friday, February 29, 2008

Finish the regular season strong!

Tuesday night in Asheville was a first for the current group of Lady Highlanders. The 70-58 victory marked the first time we have beaten UNCA on their home floor in 5 seasons. It was great to see our team come together and come away with a hard fought win on the same floor where we will compete for the Big South Championship in just over two weeks. The win in Asheville was also a milestone in Radford Women's Basketball history giving us only the 2nd 20 win regular season in history and the first back to back 20 win seasons ever at RU. I am so proud of our girls for keeping their composure throughout what was a very intense game and playing just the way we practiced last week...very focused on our mission. While the Asheville win was a great one, we have to immediately focus on our next very important game. Tomorrow is our last home game and a game where our seniors need to deliver big. We go into the game against Winthrop tied with them for 2nd place in the conference at 7-3 and they are coming off of a historical win for their program (they beat Liberty on Wed) and playing very well. The winner of tomorrow's game locks up at least the #2 seed in the tournament and if a few crazy things happen...we could potentially be playing for the #1 seed next Friday. Anyway, I hope the entire city of Radford comes out to support our 3 seniors in their last game in the Dedmon Center. This senior class has redefined what it means to play Radford Basketball and we are so proud of them. All 3 of them will be graduating in May and I'm sure they will be just as successful in the future as they have been representing RU on the court. Big game tomorrow...see you there!

Corrie's thoughts on Senior Day:
It’s that time of year again and I can’t believe it. We only have two games left before we start conference tournament play and I’m super excited yet it is distressing for me. I say this because our next game is senior night and it will be my last time ever playing on my home floor. It seems like yesterday when I was just a freshman and we were celebrating the seniors. I didn’t realize how fast my four years would fly by! I always tell the underclassmen to cherish the time you have left because before you know it, you’re a senior and then its over! Now, this Saturday will be me and my two fellow senior’s time. Its senior night and I hope we get a big win so it sends us into the tournament in a second place finish! It’s going to be very emotional for me though, I love my school and my team and I just hope everyone comes out to cheer us on to victory!

Friday, February 22, 2008

keep practicing like that!

Coach Porter kicked our team's butt yesterday in practice. And they deserved it. Don't get me wrong...we had a great practice. It's just that we've decided not to let our team TALK about what it takes to win and not practice like they want to win a conference championship. Coach asked the team a queston in the locker room before the Charleston Southern game last Saturday that has become our focus for the rest of the season. She asked them to give her the 3 things that when we do those things well, we win. The team responded with: Defend, Rebound, and Take Care of the Ball. We did those three things as well as we have all season on Saturday vs CSU and again on Monday vs Coastal and we came away with two very decisive victories. Coach said this to the girls in our huddle just before game time: If you had the answers to a test before you walked in the door and you still failed the test, how smart does that make you? She said, you guys just gave me the answers...our keys to winning. Go pass the test! I thought that made so much sense. Our team told us what they have to do to win and they went out and got the job done. That brings me back to practice yesterday. Coach won't let them have the answers and not focus on those things everyday in practice. Every time either team missed a blockout or turned the ball over yesterday in practice, Shavon kept up with it and they ran a sprint for each one when practice was over (which for one team was 8 sprints!). They were intense and worked really hard yesterday and I'm thinking today they bring their focus to the court. Next test is Tuesday at UNC Asheville and I hope we ace it!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Milestones for our seniors

I have failed to mention that over the last 2 months, 2 of our seniors have reached some very impressive career milestones. On December 22nd, Corrie Fertitta scored her 1000th career point when she hit the game winning three point shot at American University. A few games later in January, Kelli Darden reached the 1000th point mark on the road at Longwood University. Kelli followed up that achievement by breaking the Big South Career Blocks Record (257) at RU's homecoming game against UNC-Asheville on February 2nd. We are so proud of our seniors and the great tradition that they have helped rebuild in RU Women's Basketball. When Corrie and Kelli made the decision to become Lady Highlanders, the success we are experiencing right now was just a vision that Coach Porter had for our program. Through alot of hard work and the help of 2 great seniors, RU is finally back on the map as one of the top teams in the Big South. Congratulations to Kelli and Corrie (Thunder and Lightning)!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Our next game is the most important game on our schedule.

1-1 since my last post. We finished up the first half of conference play 4-2 and 17-8 overall and we are having a great season. We dropped a tough one to Liberty at home on Wednesday night but we bounced back to pick up a very valuable conference win on the road against Winthrop on Saturday. Every conference win is a big one, but conference wins on the road are extremely important. The 8 point victory on Saturday put us in sole possession of 2nd place in the Big South with 6 games to go before the tournament. The 17 wins we have right now puts us just one short of the 18 total wins we had last season when we headed to Asheville for the Big South Tournament. We have a chance to win our next 6 and finish the regular season with 23 wins...something that hasn't been done in Radford since the days of conference titles and NCAA tournament appearances in the mid 1990's. We are proud of what we're doing this season but we won't be completely satisfied until we bring home a conference championship. One of our players said in a team meeting last week that "we don't lose again". That is the mindset our team is taking for the rest of the season. Coach Porter has talked about our next game being the most important one on our schedule because that's the only one we can control and the only one we're focused on. Right now, that next important game on our schedule is at High Point University tomorrow night. We don't have to lose again this season. Wish us luck!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Big game tonight!

In an hour and twenty minutes, the Lady Highs tip off against conference in-state rival Liberty University. So far this season, Liberty has been playing very well and only has losses to North Carolina and Virginia Tech, both ACC teams. The Liberty game, for me at least, always seems to have a little more meaning than any other conference game. Every Big South game is very important and counts in the standings just the same, but I always want to win this one more than most. Before senior night last season, we had not beaten LU at home or in Lynchburg since our coaching staff began at Radford. We usually played well for parts of games but never seemed to put a complete game together. Last March in Sarah Stephens, Meagan Hilligas, Tameisha Carter, and Shavon Earp's last home game as a Highlander, we finally found the magic formula and slayed the giant. We won that game by 24 points! And if we left any doubt in anyone's mind, we beat them again less than a week later in the semi-final game of the Big South Tournament. Kelli Darden hit the game winning shot with 0.2 seconds on the game clock to seal a 2 point victory and a trip to the conference championship game. Those wins were sweet and very meaningful but nothing we did last season will help us win one tonight. Liberty comes into the Dedmon Center tonight 4-0 in the league and we are 3-1. Coach Porter has put together a great game plan and we plan no suprises. Our girls will step on the floor and play the way we've played for our last 24 games...pressure defense, transition, and executing our half court sets to get the ball where we want it. This is Lady Highlander basketball and we're ready to show Liberty the 2008 version of it! Time to head down to the court.