As they walked off the floor Saturday at Ohio Northern University’s Campoli Court, Wilmington College seniors Brittaney Jefferson, Ashley Andracki, Ja’Cole Tabor and Mary Moyer shouldn’t be blamed if they were wondering “What if?”
Wilmington played five games this season against nationally-ranked teams. They were in each game. Led part of the time but faltered at some point and lost on the scoreboard.
A 70-55 loss to No.5 and unbeaten ONU in the Ohio Athletic Conference championship game ended the Quakers’ season. The team’s 18-10 record was good enough for the most wins in a season since the 2008-09 team went 19-8 but it was short of an NCAA Div. III tournament bid.
“I don’t want to say we fell short of anything,” WC head coach Jerry Scheve said. “It was a great year.”
Great, yes, when compared to the previous seven seasons when 15 wins was the most by a WC women’s team.
However, not as good when stacked side by side with Scheve’s 13-year WC run from 1996-97 to 2008-09 when the Lady Quakers averaged a 22-6 record and won a national championship.
But this senior quartet has paved the way for the returning and future players to bring back Wilmington College to those glory years.
“They were a lot of fun to be around,” Scheve said. “We never had an issue with any of them and I think with their leadership, this team was a ‘team’ the entire year. In addition, they were all pretty good basketball players that will be tough to replace.”
Scheve continued. “I never had a better group of seniors. They brought us back from a season with 11 wins with pretty much the same players to fall one game short of the NCAA tournament; that is hard to do. They felt we could do it from day one and they put everything into it all season long.”
Each senior provided something a returning player can use to say, “I’m never gonna give up. I’m going to keep pushing, keep improving. I will make this a better team.”
Regardless of the numbers, Moyer was simply the best rebounder this program has seen since Siobhan Zerilla, who gathered in a mind-boggling 1,330 boards over her four-year career.
Moyer knows how to rebound. It’s not always about height or jumping ability when it comes to who gets the ball that caroms off the rim. Moyer, the OAC’s leading rebounder this season, does it with tenacity, technique, positioning and strength.
In addition, the Clinton-Massie graduate played her final two collegiate games on a severely sprained ankle, an injury that at one point had her sidelined until April.
“Mary severely sprains her ankle (Tuesday, Feb. 21) and the first report I get is a high ankle sprain, out 6-8 weeks,” Scheve said. “Then she’s out on it two days later. That speaks to the kind of person she is and what she wanted to accomplish this year.”
Like Moyer, Andracki, a Columbus Bishop Watterson grad, displayed a grittiness to bounce back from an injury to perform at a high level.
“Ashley is pretty much the first fifth-year senior I’ve ever had,” said Scheve. “She came back just to play another year of basketball. She could have graduated a year ago. Came back stronger than ever after a torn ACL. Speaks to how hard she worked and how she wanted to finish on a successful note.”
Jefferson and Tabor are cousins, who went to Dayton Chaminade-Julienne High School. Jefferson stepped on the Fred Raizk Arena floor and was a leader from the start.
“Brittaney, pretty much from Day 1, has been a big contributor for four years,” said Scheve.
Jefferson was the top scorer last season for WC but with the continued growth of Mackenzie Campbell and Savannah Hooper as scorers, Jefferson took a step back in terms of points. The rest of her game improved, though; she was a defensive leader and cut back on her turnovers, showing a team-first mentality.
Tabor may have led the team in trips to the floor as she was seemingly in the mix for every loose ball.
“Ja’Cole is my all-time favorite player. She’s a character, and I mean that in the very best definition of the word,” Scheve said.
So Andracki, Jefferson, Moyer and Tabor have donned the green and white for the final time. Their legacy, however, will carry-on as the women’s basketball program continues its rise back to national prominence.
Campbell, Hooper and Emily Harman were starters or played starter minutes for WC this season and will join with returning players and new recruits to put Wilmington back on the Div. III national map in 2017-18.
“Something that is really overlooked are the little things and the simple, seemingly stupid rules we have,” Scheve explained. “The seniors have done a good job of making the underclassmen realize they are important.
“The seniors will make sure the rising leaders on this team understand how to lead. They are the ones responsible for passing it down about what it means to be a leader and what it means to be a Lady Quaker.”
Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, or on Twitter @wnjsports