By Reily Chestnut
Assistant Sports Director
A season that pushed every Bobcat fan’s expectations to the peaks of Mount Everest has come to an end after women’s basketball lost to Rice in the opening round of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament (N.I.T.). To recap it all we must go back farther than anticipated. In order to truly understand the path this team took we must look at how last season ended.
March 16, 2017
Texas State has just lost in the opening game of the Women’s Basketball Invitational in Strahan Coliseum 66-62 to Eastern Washington. The early exit only added to the knockout blow that the Bobcats endured over the final stretch of their 2016-17 season. They had lost four straight tight battles, each becoming a tougher pill for the Bobcats to swallow. First, they get kicked around by Louisiana-Lafayette 62-43 after winning 10 of their previous 12. Next, they lose to ULM 61-59 on a bank shot three pointer (ouch). Following that, they lose in the first round of the SBC tourney to the Ragin’ Cajuns on another last second shot after former ‘Cat Kaitlin Walla’s game-tying trey. Add that to losing by just four in the WBI and you leave a few returnees with a bad taste in their mouth.
November 12, 2017
Flash forward after months of anticipation to put last season’s flame out behind them. First challenge on their full on D-I schedule, Texas Tech at United Supermarkets Arena in Lubbock. But more importantly, a chance to make a great first impression and show us just how far they had come since March. By the end of the day, there was no doubt just how explosive Texas State could be. The Bobcats beat the Red Raiders 87-70 and senior Taeler Deer scored a career-high 44 points. It set the table for a Sun Belt Player of the Year campaign that caps one of the most dynamic careers in Bobcat history.
Setting Out on Sunset Boulevard
One that might require her No. 23 to be hung in the rafters as the first Bobcat baller since Jeff Foster’s No. 44 was immortalized on February 8th, 2014. Deer was the heart that made this team beat…opponents by an average margin of 12.7 points per game. But that wasn’t the only 23 to gather notice. The team won a school D-I record 23 games. But they knew just how much experience they were playing with in their three guard starting lineup. It truly was a team that was playing with all their chips on the table and unfortunately their hand didn’t have enough to get them back to the dance. But that doesn’t mean we didn’t see plenty of high flushes and some queens thrown down. Seniors like Deer, Ericka May, Ti’Aira Pitts and grad forward Zelor Massaquoi showed just how sorely I’m going to miss this team’s senior core. May and Pitts showcased a couple of forwards that understood their role in this quick hit, high hustle offense. Pitts was the offensive insider to May’s defensive all-rounder. They each played that role so well while Massaquoi brought defensive energy off the bench while quickly keeping May and Pitts minutes at a reasonable level and the second unit defense on point.
Bobcats Bring Hope For Future
Luckily, Texas State still have pieces to build with for the future. They still have another season for Toshua Leavitt to go off and put her career into consideration for probable Bobcat immortality. Leavitt already has the program record for three pointers (254) with at least 30 more games to try and hit 145 more to break the NCAA record for career three pointers. Then you add that sophomore Brooke Holle balled out in her increased role as a third option alongside Deer and Leavitt, she certainly took a huge step towards stardom. But what amazed me most of all was Holle’s incredible dedication to the gritty details of the game plan while playing as the key stretch piece to help unlock this team’s shooting ability.
This season’s ending doesn’t reflect all the noise that the Bobcats made. Sure it was hard to watch (or listen) to the ending of the SBC title game that left the Bobcats a layup shy of making it to the dance for the third time in program history. But you have options on how to take away that moment. You can look back with a painful expression on your face, or with pride in your eyes in how that team came back from down 21 points to send a scare down the No. 1 seeded Little Rock Trojans’ spines. This 23-10 season proves that Head coach Zenarae Antoine and her coaching staff have finally arrived and proven they can create a program that we can get behind. Only time will tell if they can continue this trend, starting next season after losing three starters and a one stop energizer off the bench.
Featured image by Nicole Wolf.