Wednesday night, the No. 7-seeded Lady Bisons closed out their season with a 63-51 loss to No. 2 ranked Jacksonville in the first round at Allen Arena.
“I was really proud of our team,” said coach Frank Bennett. “They played very hard.”
Senior forward Jilian Partin closed out her career with a game-high 15 points. She tied for the team lead in rebounds with seven. Partin ended the season either leading the team or tying for the team lead in scoring in seven of the last eight games.
“Jilian plays harder than any player we have had,” said Bennett. “She was relentless on the boards and in driving the ball to the basket. She was outstanding the last three or four weeks.”
Sophomore guard Jenna Bartsokas scored 10 points for the Lady Bisons. Sophomore forward Cree Nix tied for the team lead in rebounds with seven.
Freshman guard Anna Bowers hit three-of-six 3-point shots, just missing double figures with nine points. Her confidence has grown as the season progressed.
“The transition from high school to college is a little bit nerve-wracking,” said Bowers. “Our team did a great job of embracing us as freshmen. That made a difference in all of our performances.“
The Lady Bisons spotted Jacksonville an 8-0 lead to start the game. With 6:36 left to play in the first half Jacksonville led 27-17.
But the Lady Bisons started chipping away at the lead with a 9-0 run, pulling to within one point at 27-26 with 2:58 left to play on a 3-pointer by Bartsokas. With four seconds left before intermission Bartsokas hit one of two free throw attempts as the Lady Bisons went into the dressing room trailing 32-29.
Partin scored all 15 of her points in the second half. A lay-up by Partin put the Lady Bisons ahead 33-32 37 seconds into the second half.
But Jacksonville started building momentum, leading in double figures for most of the final 7 ½ minutes.
“They started pressuring the ball hard,” said Bennett. “They left some things open on the weak side that we didn’t take advantage of.
“They got us out of our rhythm. We are a tempo team. When we get the tempo going we are effective. When we don’t have the tempo it is hard for us to score.”
It was the first time the Lady Bisons had faced Jacksonville in the Atlantic Sun Tournament.
Jacksonville forward Desarae Johnson led her team with 12 points and tied for the lead in rebounds with eight. Guard DaVina Hamilton added 12 points and eight rebounds.
The Lady Bisons finished the season with a 6-24 record. Jacksonville moves to the semifinals Friday with an 18-12 record. The season was a struggle for the Lady Bisons as they worked to mesh a talented freshman class into a lineup rotation that included mostly sophomores and a couple of seniors.
“I did think our youth hurt us at time,” said Bennett. “We had young guards, freshmen and sophomores.
“I thought we came together the last three or four weeks of the season and played mostly good basketball. We were in games for most of the games with the exception of one. I think this year’s experience will help us. We are really close.”