GREENSBORO- The North Carolina A&T women's basketball team had a winning season. The overall record doesn't say it.
But when one of the youngest teams in the nation loses two starters, yet wins 15 games, finishes with a better than .500 record in the conference, helps their coach reach an historic milestone and shows mounds of character at the MEAC Tournament - In head coach Patricia-Cage Bibbs' mind - they're winners.
The Aggies went 15-16 overall and 9-7 in the MEAC to finish above .500 in the conference for the sixth straight year.
"I don't like losing," Bibbs said. "I saw that there was maturity, and I saw it as it was developing, so I do know that it is a very good team for the future."
Bibbs said she was proud of the way her young team, which featured eight freshmen and five sophomores on their 15-person roster, handled the early adversity they faced this season. At the start of the second semester, starting guard Mikala Scott didn't return for administrative reasons, and starting forward Tracy King sustained a season-ending knee injury in practice midway through January. Second-team All-MEAC forward JaQuayla Berry and guard Amber Calvin also missed time with injuries.
"When you lose people to injuries, you know, one is devastating. But when you lose two, and then three and four, gosh, it's tough," said Bibbs. "We didn't give up, we kept going. We stayed positive. We could have easily said that's it. We still coached and did everything we could. We tried to enable them to get into the gym and work on their game and just get better."
With the injuries and losses, the Aggie freshmen got to see plenty of playing time on the court. Nearly every freshman made at least one start during the season. That experience will help build the depth of the A&T team for next season. The contributions of the underclassmen came in many ways, from success on the court, to leadership in the locker room.
First-year player Tiffanie Adair capped off the season with All-Rookie Team honors. The forward from Duncan, S.C., garnered MEAC Rookie of the Week honors five times in the last seven weeks of the regular season. She finished the season averaging 8.3 points and 6.1 rebounds.
Adair started seeing a lot of playing time once Scott departed and King went down. She responded by recording five double-doubles (points and rebounds) over the final 12 games of the season. She also shot 62 percent from the floor in the same span.
"She became the player that we knew she was," Bibbs said. "What I really admire about Tiffanie is that attitude. She knows what work is and she doesn't shy away from that. I'm just hoping that she stays focused because she's going to do some great things.
Bibbs wants Adair to work on her jump shot during the offseason. The 5-11 rising junior is undersized in the post, but is extremely athletic. If she develops a jump shot, she will make life difficult for bigger players trying to guard her.
While Bibbs saw Adair mature on the court, she was just as impressed with sophomore DeAndra Davis' maturity off of it. Before the Feb. 25 game at S.C. State, there was a team meeting held after breakfast.