When they waved to their fans for the final time this season at Crenshaw Gymnasium, the Randolph-Macon women’s basketball team did so with a tremendous feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction.
Not only did they win all 14 of their home games on the schedule, they completed a “mirror-image” turnaround of their record from a year ago. The Jackets entered the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) Tournament at 5-20 in 2013. They’ll begin play in the 2014 Tourney at 20-5 as the number-two seed at the Salem Civic Center Thursday.
The second seed was earned with a 96-56 rout of Emory & Henry on Senior Day at Crenshaw, as the Jackets honored center Paige Mills, the lone senior on the roster. Mills had one point, five rebounds and an assist but saw her special day end prematurely, going down on a play with 4:54 to go, screaming in pain, holding her knee. She was attended to and helped off the court.
“Paige is day-to-day,” Randolph-Macon head coach Carroll LaHaye said on Monday, unsure whether Mills will be able to play in this weekend’s tournament.
Taylor Huber led the Jackets, as she has all season, with 23 points, while Katie Anderson had 19, Sarah Parsons 16 and Hannah Livermon 11. Huber finishes the regular season averaging 21.9 points per game, followed by the junior Parsons (17.7) and the sophomore Anderson (15.7). Anderson finished just shy of a season double-double with an average of 9.7 rebounds per contest.
Speaking of rebounds, many that went in strange directions seemed to fall back into the Wasps’ hands helping them stay afloat Saturday, as the Jackets only had a 44-34 lead going to intermission. The Wasps out-rebounded Randolph-Macon in the first half 23-15, but it wasn’t necessarily for lack of effort inside.
“Rebounding is always a concern, but sometimes I have to remind the team that a long shot produces a long rebound,” LaHaye explained. For the game, the Jackets held the edge at 45-44. The team also shot 53 percent for the game, helping to explain the ease in which they grew the lead from 10 to the final margin of 40.
The Jackets are a team that depends on good shooting, and have been the victim of streaky shooting this season. A cold game can be one of the quickest ways a favorite in the postseason finds an early exit. Randolph-Macon will look for offensive consistency as they begin ODAC Tournament play Thursday at 6 p.m. against seventh-seeded Bridgewater. The Jackets defeated the Eagles in their lone matchup Dec. 3 on the road, 99-81.
A victory over Bridgewater would send Randolph-Macon to the semifinals Saturday at 3 p.m. against the winner of Roanoke/Lynchburg. The Jackets swept the sixth-seeded Maroons and split with the third-seeded Hornets.
Last season, the Jackets managed a first round play-in victory before seeing their season end on Quarterfinal Thursday in Salem for a 6-21 final record. The Jackets would like the “mirror image” to come to an end, so, on Championship Sunday in Salem, Randolph-Macon could play for a chance to hoist the tournament trophy, and, with it, LaHaye’s eighth NCAA Tournament appearance since 2003.
NOTES: Atlee graduate Stephanie Staples ended the regular season as the top freshman scorer (5.2 ppg) and rebounder (3.3 rpg) for the Jackets. But will the “PH Pipeline” continue? LaHaye has visited two recent Patrick Henry playoff games and Patriot senior Amber Lee was in attendance at Senior Day Saturday. Jacket stars Huber (2011) and Anderson (2012) are both former Patrick Henry standouts.