In a season where the Lady Eagles established themselves as the best of the rest, they had the same problem in the conference tournament as they had all season: they could not beat the best.
The Lady Eagles women’s basketball team fell to No. 2 Oklahoma City in the conference tournament 58-34 and ended their season with a 13-17 record. The Lady Eagles finished the season 0-8 against ranked opponents but sported a 7-2 record against unranked conference opponents, including a 4-1 run in the last two weeks of February that got the Lady Eagles a fourth seed and showdown with defending national champion Oklahoma City.
The Lady Eagles defeated host Oklahoma Baptist 52-47 in the quarterfinals to set up a showdown with the Stars. In that game, the Lady Eagles trailed by as much as 19 points in the second half before scoring 23 straight points en route to a 52-47 win.
“The neat thing about this team is they never gave up,” said women’s head coach Jeff Soderquist. “To finish in the semifinals and to make the run we made at the end says a lot about the character of the players.”
JBU held the Stars to 26 points in the first half of its semifinal game, trailing by only 10 at halftime.
“We needed it to be a low scoring game,” Soderquist said. “We held them, … but we needed to score more than we did.”
The Stars then opened the second half with a 18-2 run to essentially put the game away.
“The first ten minutes of the second half is where we lost it,” Soderquist said. “We needed to come out and sustain what we were doing defensively, and we needed to score more and we just didn’t do that. Oklahoma City guarded us real hard on the outside so it was really hard to get shots off.”
Soderquist said for the women’s team to break through next season and have success against elite teams, there will have to be increased output on the offensive end.
“We’ve got to be able to get easy baskets,” Soderquist said. “We need to score more in transition and we’ve got to get baskets in the paint.”
Next year, the Lady Eagles will lose their lone senior Anna Parish, who was all-conference honorable mention this season.
“She showed a lot of leadership, and the girls saw that,” Soderquist said. “Anna is one of the best ball handlers we’ve had.”
Soderquist also hopes the momentum the team had at the end of this season can carry through and translate into a successful season next year.
“We saw that we could do some things,” Soderquist said. “We’ve got to some work to do, but I do think that the momentum can help.”