Another season of Bearcats basketball has come and gone and neither the men’s nor the women’s team was able to bring a championship to our cloudy campus. For many, that will be the last page read in the book of the 2010-11 season. But for the Binghamton University women’s basketball team there lays quite an epilogue past the pages of the final chapter.
The Bearcats’ season ended far too early, a recurring theme since the program’s move to Division I. The exit comes as nothing new to a team that has never advanced past the conference semifinals, but this year had a different feel than those previous.
Binghamton was predicted to finish third in the America East Conference this year, but at times it didn’t seem as if it would end that way — for the better and for the worse.
Junior guard Andrea Holmes led the Bearcats to a program-best 9-2 conference start, dropping games only to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and Boston University, teams that would eventually finish the season in first and second place, respectively.
Binghamton was receiving credit for its success in the form of votes in the ever-important College Insider Mid-Major top-25 poll at points throughout the season but stumbled to the finish line while posting an 11-5 conference record.
Six different players led the Bearcats in scoring while four led in rebounding during those 16 games. Needless to say, a team so seemingly dependent on the success of Holmes at the outset came into its own throughout the course of the season with contributions from each of its core players.
Proving she belonged among the conference’s elite inside presences, junior Viive Rebane was a staple in the rebounding department for a team that led the AE in the category as she pulled down 8.5 boards per game, good for fourth in the conference. Her success didn’t end there; she also ranked 10th in scoring (11.8 ppg), 11th in free-throw percentage (69 percent) and first in field goal percentage (49 percent.)
But numbers don’t begin to describe her value to the Bearcats this season. Named second team All-Conference, she was one of the most consistent threats for Binghamton all season long.
Joining her inside was sophomore Kara Elofson who, despite being undersized at just 5 feet 10 inches, was consistently given, and efficiently completed, the task of keeping opposing teams’ largest players at bay. Statistics don’t reflect defensive intensity and toughness, but if they did, Elofson would rank among the leaders in the AE.
Freshman Jasbriell Swain’s scrappy play brought her Rookie of the Year honors. Even though her scoring wasn’t stellar, it didn’t need to be. “Jas” understood her role from the first day and provided her team with youthful energy when it needed it most.
The Bearcats began the season without senior Jackie Ward, who missed the first three weeks recovering from ankle surgery. But a mature Ward returned to the starting lineup and complemented the already established character of the team, taking charge only when necessary.
And then there was Holmes. Named to the All-Conference first team, the junior was in the conversation for Player of the Year for much of the season and only dropped out when her scoring declined as she began to distribute the ball and further involve her teammates. In the season’s second-to-last game, a devastating season-ending ACL tear for Holmes had many wondering if the Bearcats could continue without her.
But they did exactly that, not only to take the lead and game against Boston, but also to advance to the conference semifinals where the very same Terriers got their revenge. Behind a superb shooting performance from junior Alex Young, who poured in a career-high 37 points, Boston ended Binghamton’s season by a final score of 59-44.
So no, the Bearcats weren’t able to bring home a championship. And no, they won’t get a trophy for doing better than they did last year. But there is something about the team’s performance this season that has many optimistic for the future.
Losing only one senior in Ward, the team will return four starters and 11 letterwinners to open the 2011-12 campaign. For what Holmes, Swain, Elofson and Rebane brought to the court this season, the prospect of what they will each be able to accomplish next year is downright scary.
One year older, stronger, smarter, more mature and experienced, the four will lead a Bearcat squad that will undoubtedly rank among the America East’s top teams when the preseason poll is released in October.
So for now, Binghamton, unfortunately the age-old saying will apply yet again: Wait ‘til next year.
But when the season tips off, your Bearcats are sure to make you proud.
And I, for one, can’t wait.