The Rowan’s women’s basketball team’s impressive season came to an end last Saturday when they were defeated in the second round of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) National Championship tournament by Amherst College 60-40. This comes after beating the United States Merchant Marine Academy in the first round on Friday 72-68.
The loss ended a season that was highlighted by winning both the New Jersey Athletics Conference (NJAC) regular season and tournament championships. And like everyone has been saying all year, this is a young team, so while this is the end of this season, they are confident this is not the last anyone will see from them.
“It’s wonderful for moving forward,” Head Coach Demetrius Poles said. “Now we have a platform where we can speak in practice next year; we were there already, we know what we need to do to be the elite of the elite and that is our goal. We want to be top five in the nation, not just one year, but constantly.”
Starting point guard Kennedy Brown echoed this statement, knowing how this experience was able to prove the talent that the team has.
“I think the biggest take away is we can compete with these teams,” Brown said. “It showed everybody and being such a young team we know that if we are competing with them now, we can get better over time and over the years, and come back and be one of the best.”
They know if they do get back to this point, that it will not get any easier, and this is something that Poles stressed to the team.
“I told the young ladies, this is the elite of the elite, if you want to stay here, you’re going to have to turn it up and kick some butt,” Poles said. “It is not going to be easy, nobody’s going to back down, everybody who’s in the tournament is used to winning. They got there because they won, so it’s the best of the best, so you have to try to find a way to challenge yourselves and challenge the other team.”
While getting back to this tournament will not get any easier competition-wise, there will be one big difference if they return next year: they will be playing in front of a crowd.
The first two rounds of the tournament this year were closed off to live spectators due to the coronavirus issue. This was put in place to protect the athletes and fans, but Poles did say it messed with the atmosphere of the game, saying it felt more like a YMCA retirement game than a NCAA tournament game.
“That was a let-down for me personally,” Poles said. “It was an empty arena, no energy, you had to pull it from yourself. Which is not bad and what you’re supposed to do anyways, but when you’re 35 minutes [into] the game, and you’re tired and you’re beat up and then you get a deflection or a steal or something, [when] that crowd gets into it or they shut up, you still feed off of that. We didn’t get anything, it was just whistles and sneakers.”
According to Brown, there was one other sound though, and it did help motivate the team a little more.
“I feel like as a team we knew it was going to be an empty area and it was going to be really quiet,” Brown said. “So we wanted to talk a lot and make sure we supported our team and lifted each other up and were always clapping and everything so we really didn’t really notice that it was an empty area because we pretty much as a team made it loud.”
So as the season closes for the team, it is not hard to see that while they didn’t get to the highest point they could get to in the season, this was definitely a successful season for them and one that Poles was very proud of.
“[I] told the young ladies that this is one of the most connected teams I’ve ever coached,” Poles said. “They all liked each other, they all liked working with each other, they all like going hard at each other, competing in practice and making each other better. So this is one of the most connected teams you’ll find, it was a pleasure coaching them.”
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