Reign of champions
Published: Thursday, February 15, 2007
Updated: Saturday, February 14, 2009 12:02
After several victories during the past two weeks, the Lady Braves have jumped four spots in the latest NAIA Division II poll. The Lady Braves have gone from No. 16 to No. 12 after a 19-point victory on Feb. 1 over the previously No. 6 Tabor Lady Blue Jays. The Blue Jays dropped to No. 17 after the loss to the Lady Braves.
The players are making their mark on Lady Braves' basketball history. They have made their presence as a team and as individuals, shattering many Ottawa University records.
As a team, the Lady Braves were ranked nationally in 11 categories last season, including being ranked No. 3 in field goal percentage defense (34.7%) and No. 7 in blocks per game (5.219). In addition, the Lady Braves went 22-10 and were crowned KCAC post-season tournament champions. Unfortunately, they were unable to surpass Doane College in the 1st round of NAIA National tournament, losing 50-40.
Four players were ranked nationally last season, including three returners: senior Hallie Boyce, senior Brittany Broyles and senior Amanda Stichler. Boyce was ranked No. 5 in free throw percentage (87.7%) and No. 47 in three-point field goal percentage (37.3%). Broyles ranked No. 24 in three-point field goals made per game (2.4) and Stichler was No. 37 in free throw percentage (80.6%).
In the record books, Boyce has marked her presence at OU along with Broyles and Stichler. Senior Tina Wilson has stacked up the individual records as well as Krystal White, senior.
White, in her first season with OU, is looking to break a new individual record. She had four steals during Saturday's game vs. Saint Mary College, which brings her only eight away from tying the all-time OU single-season steal record. With only one regular season game to go versus Bethany College Sweds, White will have one last chance to snatch the record. In the previous match up with the Sweds White had eight steals.
Bruce Tate, assistant basketball coach, is very pleased with this season's seniors.
"With seven seniors, they are showing incredible leadership. With the amount of experience, we have put it in the players' hands to set their expectations," Tate said.
Three seniors have spent four seasons at OU together. Their team play and leadership has affected the Lady Braves' success.
"Boyce, Broyles and Stichler are the only seniors that have spent all four years at OU. These three players have accomplished many milestones together, including two KCAC conference titles - possibly a third. Not only are they successful on the court, they are also great students," Tate said.
Broyles will never forget the experiences she has shared with Boyce and Stichler.
"Amanda [Stichler], Hallie [Boyce] and I have stuck together since day one. It has been the 'three of us' for four years. I wouldn't want it any other way. Our chemistry on the court is something to see and our friendship off the court is irreplaceable. Without these two girls, all of our accomplishments would not be possible," Broyles said.
During the 2006 season, Boyce became a member of the 1,000 point club, scoring more than 1,000 points during her OU basketball career. This year, she has been joined by Broyles and Stichler.
"Having three girls join the 1,000 point club shows how versatile our team is and that we can score in more than one way. Every night there is a different leading scorer. I believe that is one of the reasons we have been so successful thus far," Broyles said.
Junior transfer Hallie Lee is thankful for the bond and leadership of these three four-season players.
"I consider them to be a base. Without the base, everything could fall apart. That is how much weight they have on their shoulders. I think being 12th in the nation explains for itself that they have been doing a pretty decent job," Lee said.
The significance of coming into a program with seven seniors, for a transfer student like Lee, is unexplainable.
"Having a strong base with significant contributors has set our team a part from others in the conference and the nation. The girls have known me since they signed here, so fortunately for me, I felt like the only thing I needed to know were the Xs and Os," Lee said.
Seven seniors will be difficult to replace.
"We don't know what to expect of new players coming in for next season, but we are looking to maintain our success. The tradition is there. We now have one of the top programs in the nation and are beginning to attract more and more players," Tate said.
Tradition is an important factor to the Lady Braves.
"Tradition is very important. It creates common goals and brings a team together. Tradition also sets standards that must be met, and, in turn, makes a team work harder. We have begun to start a tradition of having a Lady Braves basketball team that ends its season at the national tournament and not any sooner," Broyles said.
The players are not the only ones to receive recognition.
"I want to give Coach Conner and Bruce [Tate] credit for everything we have accomplished in the last four years. It not only takes the right combination of players and talent, but coaching as well. Without their coaching skills and their individual personalities, we would not be where we are today. I want to thank them for giving me the confidence I've needed on and off the court to be a leader on this team," Broyles said.
Head Coach Arabie Conner has hit a milestone this year with the help of her team. In her 11th year, Conner has reached her 150th win. She is teaching young ladies how to win on the court and be successful at life off the court.
"Coach continually emphasizes how everyone on the team has a role and all of them are significant. From the base to the bench, our team supports each other. That says a lot about our team and I believe will be what gets us to nationals again," Lee said.