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 -
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.