Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Top 10 Achievements of 2011-12 Mercer Men's Basketball

Congratulations to the 2012 CIT Champions! It has been a season of many highs and firsts for the Bears, so take a look below and check out many of the achievements of Mercer Men's Basketball in 2011-12.

The Bear's Justin Cecil celebrates with the home crowd after a victory.
 10) Mercer joined Belmont and USC Upstate as one of three 20-win teams this season. It marks the second-straight season at least three A-Sun teams earned 20 wins or more on the year. It is also the fourth occurrence in the past 10 seasons; 2011, 2004 and 2003.

9) Mercer's starting five ties Ohio State for the second-youngest starting five from the teams still playing in the NCAA, NIT, CIT, and CBI Tournaments (Ohio State, Kentucky, Louisville, Kansas, Utah State, Mercer, Washington State, Pittsburgh, Stanford and Minnesota). The Bears and Buckeyes each start a senior and four sophomores. Only Kentucky's starting five of three freshmen and two sophomores is younger.

8) Currently 12 games better than last season, Mercer clinched its fourth 20-win season in the past 33 seasons on Feb. 10. The Bears last reached the win plateau in the 2002-03 season with 23 victories en route to the program’s only A-Sun regular-season title. It also marks the seventh 20-win season in the 106-year history of the program.

7) With its win vs. Old Dominion, Mercer set a program record with 25 wins on the season. It is tied for the fourth-best win total in the A-Sun over the past 11 seasons. With the victory vs. Utah State on Wednesday, the Bears tie Belmont’s 2012 squad for the second-best win total over that span.

6) The Bears set a new A-Sun record for games played in a season with 38. Prior to the tip against Utah State, the Bears were tied with Arkansas-Little Rock, who advanced to the NIT Semifinals in 1987 before claiming fourth place in the consolation game.

5) Mercer’s five postseason games is tied for the most all-time in A-Sun history with UALR’s five games in 1987. Last season, ETSU squared off in three CIT games, which ranks third-best.

4) Mercer and Utah State were two of 12 teams still participating in postseason play last evening. Massachusetts joins the Bears and Aggies as the only teams outside of the BCS conferences to be playing.

3) In the last two CollegeInsider.com Tournaments, the Atlantic Sun Conference has posted a combined record of 9-3, which ties for the top mark in wins amongst the 22 conferences that have participated in the postseason event.

2) The A-Sun is now tied with the West Coast Conference (9-3) in total wins winning percentage over the past two CollegeInsider.com Tournaments. The A-Sun (9-3) ranks ahead of the MAAC (7-4), MAC (6-7), WAC (5-2) and Conference USA (5-4).

1) Mercer defeat of Utah State accounts for the Atlantic Sun Conference’s first postseason tournament title.

More on the game

Friday, March 23, 2012

Spotlighting the A-Sun: March 2012

In the last two CollegeInsider.com Tournaments, the Atlantic Sun Conference has posted a combined record of 7-3, which is tied for the second-most wins amongst the 22 conferences that have participated in the postseason event. 

The Top 10 

Mercer men's basketball has recorded postseason wins over the Ohio Valley Conference and the Colonial Athletic Association to reach new heights this season. The Bears' road victory over Old Dominion on March 21 pushed the program-record win total to 25 and was the team's third CIT win. Mercer's triumph sends the team to the final-four round of the CIT at Fairfield University on Saturday or Sunday.

For the second consecutive year, Belmont University men's basketball head coach Rick Byrd has been named the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) District 3 Coach of the Year, as selected by his peers.

FGCU Head Coach Dave Deiros earned his 400th win in just his 10th season as the Eagle softball team swept ACC member Maryland.

Ospreys Flying High
The No. 14-ranked North Florida golf team claimed its third team title of 2011-12 at the 2012 General Hackler Championship at the DeBordieu Club on March 12. The win was UNF's first of the spring, the third of the season and gave the squad top three showings in seven of eight tournaments this year. Sean Dale earned his second individual title this season and third of his career after leading wire-to-wire. 

Three Named to NABC All-District Team
USC Upstate’s Torrey Craig, Belmont’s Kerron Johnson and Mercer’s Langston Hall were named to the District 3 team of the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) NABC Division I All-District teams for 2012 on March 14.

FGCU Claims Second Straight NCAA Division I "Pack the House" Challenge Title 
For the second straight year Florida Gulf Coast University was one of 32 winners in the NCAA Division I “Pack the House” Challenge. Additionally, for the third consecutive year the A-Sun recorded 100 percent participation in the “Pack the House” Challenge, and in two of the last three years the A-Sun has been the lone conference with all of its members participating.

• Florida Gulf Coast University has amassed more than 1 million service-learning hours and earned national recognition for its program.

• Six current A-Sun member institutions were recently named to the 2012 President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll.

Belmont Leads Race for All-Sports Title
Belmont holds the top spot in the Atlantic Sun All-Sports Standings after the completion of the winter sports regular seasons. The Bruins hold the lead in the Bill Bibb Trophy standings for 2011-12 with a total of 165 points.

Tilley Era Over at Kennesaw State
On March 19 Colby Tilley officially announced his retirement after 17 seasons with Kennesaw State University. He retires as the winningest coach in program history, accumulating a 290-208 record at KSU.

A-Sun Baseball and Softball Championship Finals to Air on ESPN3
The championship games of the 2012 Atlantic Sun Conference Baseball and Softball Championships will receive well-deserved national coverage with an agreement in place to deliver the championship Saturday action for both events on ESPN3. 

Who’s Hot:
• Notable Wins: Belmont 3-1 vs. Auburn (3/11); Mercer 6-1 vs. Mississippi St. (3/10)
• JU’s Terry Alexander gets 700th win with 9-2 victory over USF (3/8)
• Collegiate Baseball: No. 15 Stetson
• CBD Mid-Major Top 25:  No. 2 Stetson, No. 25 USC Upstate

Who’s Hot:
• Notable wins: USC Upstate tops Syracuse (3-1) and Penn St. (2-0); FGCU blanks Georgetown (4-0), Utah (2-0) and sweeps Maryland (3-1, 9-1)
• Lipscomb’s Whitney Kiihnl recorded her 1,000th strikeout in 8-6 win over MTSU (3/11).
Mid-Major Top 25: No. 11 USC Upstate (Spartans also receiving seven votes in the USA Today/NFCA Coaches Poll)

Who’s Hot:
• KSU’s Matt Nagy, UNF’s Sean Dale – Nagy fired a school record, 63, also second best in the NCAA this year. Dale took first place at the General Hackler Championship.
• FGCU's Jack Hernandez – Played the final 36 holes of the Rio Pinar Invitational at a combined nine-under par to win his first career collegiate tournament.
 •Stetson's Stetson's Alexandria Buelow – Once again lowered the school record by firing a 67 in the opening round of the MSU Ocala Invitational en route to claming her eighth career individual title.

Top 100 Rankings:
Men – No. 17 UNF, No. 41 Kennesaw St., No. 86 FGCU, No. 94 Mercer
Women – No. 61 Kennesaw State, No. 67 ETSU

Who’s Hot:
• Stetson Men – No.  71 in latest Campbell/ITA rankings, (11-2, 2-0 A-Sun) leads A-Sun
• UNF Men – No. 50 in latest Campbell's/ITA rankings; (11-5, 1-1 A-Sun) In consecutive days the Ospreys defeated No. 33 UNC Wilmington (3/13) and No. 42 South Alabama (3/12).
• Stetson Women – (8-1, 2-0 A-Sun) Defeated Big Ten’s Michigan St., 5-2 (3/7)

APRIL 9-11   
Women's Golf Championship, New Smyrna Beach, Fla. (CFSC/Stetson)

APRIL 16-18  
Men's Golf Championship, Braselton, Ga. (GSC/Kennesaw St.)

APRIL 20-11  
Men's and Women's Outdoor Track, Jacksonville, Fla. (UNF)

APRIL 20-22  
Sand Volleyball Championship, Jacksonville, Fla. (Jacksonville)
Men's and Women's Tennis Championship, Johnson City, Tenn. (ETSU)

Monday, March 12, 2012

CRONS Achiever Award Nominees for February 2012

Crons sponsors the monthly "Achiever Award," which is presented to the school recognized by a fan vote for the most notable achievement from the month prior. Below are the descriptions of each submission, along with the poll in the right-hand sidebar.

Parker Smith, North Florida Men’s Basketball

• Smith averaged 21.3 points and 3.1 rebounds per game while shooting 45 percent from the floor, 45 percent from three-point line and 89 percent at the free throw line and helping North Florida basketball team to a school record 16 wins (10 in A-Sun play).

• Earned a pair of A-Sun Player of the Week honors during the month

• Scored double-digit in all seven games including three with 20+

• Scored a UNF record and matched an A-Sun conference game record with 46 points and 11 three-pointers in a game. (That total was also the second most points in an NCAA DI game this year and most three-pointers made in a DI game this year)…

• Earned second-team All-A-Sun honors (just third player in UNF history)

• League’s top scorer (17.0 ppg) in conference play as well as top three-point shooter (3.6 per game) and FT% (80.6)

• Finished with UNF season record of 96 made three-pointers.

Gilbert Kemboi, USC Upstate Men’s Track and Field

• Named the 2012 A-Sun Indoor Track Athlete of the Year Feb. 18 after winning conference titles in both the 5,000-meter and 3,000-meter events.

• Broke his own A-Sun Indoor meet record in the 5,000-meter with a time of 14:41.56, becoming only the third student-athlete in conference history to be a three-time event winner.

• Posted a winning time of 8:25.63 in the 3,000-meter.

• Set a school record in the 3,000-meter at Clemson’s Tiger Paw Invitational Feb. 12, crossing the line in 8:20.36.

Destiny Mitchell, ETSU Women’s Basketball

• Atlantic Sun All-Conference Team member

• Averaged a double-double for the month – 15.8 points, 11.2 rebounds, also 2.2 steals and 59 percent (58-99) shooting from the field in nine games

• Shot 12-of-15 from the field en route to scoring a career-high 30 points vs. Mercer, including 11 consecutive field goals in the second half

• Recorded one of her six double-doubles for the month with a 15-point (6-of-6 shooting), 10-rebound game at Kennesaw State

• Enjoyed three consecutive double-doubles as she averaged 16.3 points and 10.0 rebounds, while shooting 66 percent (21-32) from the field in games against Kennesaw, Jacksonville, and North Florida

• Recorded three straight double-doubles to close out the final three games of the regular season, (at Belmont, 15 points/12 rebounds), (vs. Stetson, 10 points/career-high tying 14 rebounds), (vs. ETSU, 23 points/20 rebounds)

• Posted the A-Sun’s first 20/20 game since fellow Lady Buccaneer standout and two-time A-Sun Player of the Year, Siarre Evans, accomplished the feat back in January of 2010.

Kerron Johnson, Belmont Men’s Basketball

• Led Belmont to a second consecutive Atlantic Sun Tournament championship

• Earned Tournament MVP honors

• Recorded his second career double-double in the championship game against FGCU (14 points, 11 rebounds and five assists)

• First Team All-Atlantic Sun, Johnson has been an instrumental part of Belmont 57 victories over the past two seasons.

McKenzie Woody, Mercer Softball

Woody got off to an incredible start in the first month of the season for the Bears.

• Through the first 15 games she posted a .436 batting average with 24 total hits – both were team highs.

• As the Bears’ leadoff batter she also recorded a .483 on base percentage and 13 stolen bases.

• As a major contributor to the Bears’ offense, Woody’s skills led to her scoring a team-high 13 runs in the month of February.

Whitney Kiihnl, Lipscomb Softball

• Went 7-2 with an ERA of 1.30 in 10 appearances for the Lady Bison softball team, striking out 52 and limiting opponents to a .214 batting average.

• Threw six complete games and five shutouts, including a no-hit, 11-strike out performance against Butler (Feb. 18).

• Allowed just 10 earned runs, none of which came in four appearances at the College of Charleston Classic

• A-Sun Pitcher of the Week for Feb. 27 after the College of Charleston Classic.

• Also helped her cause at the plate, hitting .455 in the month of February.

Brandon Bixler, FGCU Baseball

• Bixler pitched 8.2 innings, allowing one-hit against Bryant on Feb. 26

• He also recorded 12 strikeouts at Swanson Stadium in 26 outs.

• The accomplishment marked the fifth one-hitter in program history and just the second in the Division I era.

• Scattered only three walks throughout the contest

• Bixler finished the afternoon with one hit allowed, accounting for the Bulldogs’ lone run in the game. Following a two-out walk and a wild pitch in the ninth, David Soltis stepped to the plate and sent a 3-2 pitch, Bixler’s 136th of the afternoon, into centerfield for the lone hit while bringing in the visitor’s only run from second base. Following Bixler’s departure,the Eagles went on to strike out the final batter swinging to take the 5-1 victory over the Bulldogs.

• A day after his outing, Bixler was named one of Louisville Slugger’s National Players of the Week.

As the Official Motivation and Apparel Brand of the Atlantic Sun Conference, the Crons Brand provides what it calls “high quality motivational apparel, merchandise, and accessories to inspire people to get better and constantly strive for their goals.” It also strives to reinforce positive messages to athletes about what it takes to be a winner and the importance of working harder than anyone else in order to reach their full potential. Crons communicates this message through four separate product categories: Team Gear, Lifestyle Apparel, Nutritional Products, and School Programs. Crons is a national brand with its message-themed and motivational merchandise and apparel already in use by more than 500 schools and organizations in 25 states.

Crons perpetuates its message through its Achievers Program, designed to teach students the importance of setting and achieving goals. The program focuses on fostering skills that will help young people set smart, measurable goals now and in the future – leading to academic, personal and professional success.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Catching Up With ETSU's Whitley Hensley About the Importance of SAAC

This two-time Atlantic Sun All-Academic Team member (2010, 2011) and Atlantic Sun Conference Scholar-Athlete (2011) played in 74 games over the past two seasons, starting 54 of them. As a sophomore, Hensley ranked second on team with seven doubles last season, and reached base safely in 10 consecutive games from 2/18-3/4. Hensley is battling injury to begin the 2012 season, but is expected back within the next few weeks.

A-Sun: Why do you work with SAAC?

WH: I work with SAAC because I am a representative of the softball team, and enjoy being a part of a program that focuses on the well-being of all student-athletes.

A-Sun: What is SAAC’s role on campus?

WH: The SAAC here at ETSU works in many areas on campus. We are always trying to find ways to involve all students with our athletic teams and get them to support every sport. We also put together several fundraisers for charities in our area. We try to be involved in all aspects of our campus life, so that way we can enrich the experience for all student-athletes at ETSU.

A-Sun: What is the most rewarding community service project you have done with SAAC?

WH: Right now we are working on a dodge ball tournament, and a date night auction that all the athletes are going to get to participate in. These have not yet taken place, but being a part of the committees from the beginning until the event has and will be the most rewarding. This has given me a chance to take a leadership position and help out my community.

A-Sun: Why did you choose to attend ETSU and to play for an A-Sun team?

WH: I chose to play for ETSU for several reasons. It helped ETSU is right in my back yard so I was able to stay close to home; ETSU also offered another family for me as well. Our team is basically a family and that meant so much to me to be a part of. The ETSU softball team is also based on many values that are aligned with my own; we have a great coaching staff that focuses on making all of us better as athletes and better as people. ETSU also had a selling point because of being a part of the A-Sun conference. The A-Sun is composed of great teams that offer great competition.

A-Sun: What does a typical day for you as a Buccaneer entail?

WH: As every other student athlete does, I go to class in the morning because I am a student first. I actually enjoy going to class, because I am an exercise science major and we work very closely with the athletic programs. It’s nice to always be around our sports. From there, I have practice and strength and conditioning almost every day of the week, but there is also the rewarding factor of being a Buc. Here at ETSU, all the athletes know each other so it’s nice to walk down the halls of the Dome and see all my friends. Our faculty and staff are also a rewarding part of playing here, as they are always friendly and always up for some sports talk.

A-Sun: How do you envision SAAC’s role in the Johnson City community in the future?

WH: As a member of SAAC, I believe that we can make an impact on the Johnson City community with our community service projects. We are currently trying to raise money for Marsh – which is a local company who gives blood to hospitals to help save lives. By having this relationship with them, I believe that the community will see an impact the student-athletes have on this area, and in return, will support all of our athletic teams.

A-Sun: What is your favorite part about softball or favorite part of being a student-athlete?

WH: I love the fact that softball has taken me to so many places that I never would have gone before. Even though when we are on the road and are focused on playing ball, it is still very nice to see different parts of the country. I have been to several places in Florida, California, and this year we are heading to a part of Alabama I have never been before. As cheesy as this sounds, softball has given me lifelong friends. On the road, we not only go to all these places, but we are on extremely long bus rides which make us a little family.

A-Sun: What is your favorite thing to do in your spare time?

WH: Even though school and ball take up most of my time, I enjoy cooking and baking in my spare time. It’s like a little escape from my everyday life. I try to cook for myself or my roommates every night— it makes it feel more like home.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

FGCU's Thomas Understands Powerhouse Programs

By Daniel Shirley

Mel Thomas was a member of one of women’s college basketball powerhouse programs as a player.

Now, she’s getting a different experience with another powerhouse team.

Thomas, who played for Connecticut, is in her second season as the director of operations for the Florida Gulf Coast women’s basketball team. The Eagles, who made their Atlantic Sun Conference Championship debut after completing the transition process to full Division I status, earned their first trip to the NCAA tournament Saturday with their first A-Sun tournament title.

Florida Gulf Coast cruised through the tournament, beating East Tennessee State, Kennesaw State and Stetson. The Eagles topped second-seeded Stetson 67-39 on Saturday in the championship game.

Karl Smesko’s Florida Gulf Coast team improved its record to 29-2 overall, which ties the Eagles with the 1997-98 Florida International Golden Panthers for top mark in total wins. The Eagles have also won all 21 of their games against A-Sun competition.

That’s the kind of dominance Thomas was used to as a player at UConn.

“I think both teams just strive for excellence to just be the best and don’t accept anything less than that,” Thomas said. “It’s on a slightly smaller scale here because at UConn we were always under a microscope, but we’re just focused on being the best and doing the best that we can do.

“It is awesome to be part of a winning team again, and Coach Smesko has done a great job with these girls. It’s just like a family, just like it was at UConn, because everyone’s really close.”

The Eagles’ games this week weren’t close. They won their three tournament contests by a combined 67 points. Still, there was plenty of pressure on Florida Gulf Coast, which Thomas said made this tournament much more intense than anything UConn faced on the conference level.

“It’s almost even bigger stakes here because at UConn it didn’t really matter if we won the Big East tournament or not; we’d be a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament,” Thomas said. “Here, we almost have to win because everyone here is playing for the one spot, and it’s more intense. This conference tournament had a different feeling for us because it was our first time here.”

Now the Eagles will make their first trip to the NCAA tournament, something that Thomas experienced as a player with UConn.

Thomas was a co-captain for her UConn team in both her junior and senior seasons. As a senior, she played on a team that won the Big East regular-season and tournament championships and went to the Final Four. Thomas finished her career with 1,098 points and ranked fourth in UConn history with 224 3-pointers.

Now, she will try to share her NCAA experiences with the Eagles players.

“Definitely, I’ll be there for them as much as I can, and I think they’re ready,” Thomas said. “I really think we’re capable of winning a couple of games in the tournament. It’s going to be really, really exciting because it’s our first time being eligible for the conference tournament and now the NCAA tournament.”

“It’s just an awesome experience, and I feel really honored to be a part of it.”

Daniel Shirley is the sports editor of The Telegraph in Macon. Follow complete coverage of the Atlantic Sun tournament at www.macon.com/mercer and follow Daniel at @DM_Shirley for live updates throughout the tournament.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Madness Hits Macon for Semifinal Game

By Daniel Shirley

The madness of postseason basketball swept through Mercer’s University Center on Friday night in the Atlantic Sun Conference men’s semifinals.

Host Mercer faced Florida Gulf Coast in the day’s final game, and that brought out a huge crowd at the University Center.

Bobbie Padgett, a sophomore cheerleader for Mercer, said the large crowd and atmosphere at the arena helped her and the rest of the squad do their job, supporting the Bears against the Eagles.

“It really is exciting to have a big crowd like this,” Padgett said. “To have this kind of atmosphere is really fun and makes it a lot easier for us to get everyone excited for the game.”

Padgett is a sophomore from Warner Robins, and she has seen some big crowds at the University Center.

But …

“It’s never been like this,” she said. “I’ve never seen it like this. It’s really fun.”

No one has ever really seen a crowd like that at the University Center. The attendance was announced as 3,497, which matched the arena’s record set last week when Mercer hosted Belmont in the regular-season finale. That number is 109 percent of the arena’s capacity.

And the crowd got everything it could want out of Friday’s game … except for a win for the Bears.

The home crowd left unhappy as the Eagles pulled off the shocker, beating the second-seeded Bears 62-58.

The contest was deadlocked at the half at 30, and it got even more exciting in the second half.

Mercer held the biggest lead of the game at nine points with 11:22 to play, but the Eagles continued to claw back into the game, and it went down to the wire.

Florida Gulf Coast earned the win, the second straight day it has defeated a higher seed. The Eagles were 1-9 in the regular season against the teams ahead of them in the conference standings, but now n consecutive days they have defeated the third-seeded USC Upstate Spartans and second-seeded Bears.

Sherwood Brown and Christophe Varidel were key for the Eagles, scoring 14 and 13 points, respectively. And they hit clutch free throws down the stretch for the win.

“I thought it was a terrific atmosphere and a terrific college basketball game,” Florida Gulf Coast Andy Enfield said. “Even though we were greatly outnumbered, I thought it was terrific. About three or four times, I just took a deep breath and said, ‘Wow, this is a great atmosphere.’ ”

Daniel Shirley is the sports editor of The Telegraph in Macon. Follow complete coverage of the Atlantic Sun tournament at www.macon.com/mercer and follow Daniel at @DM_Shirley for live updates throughout the tournament.

Belmont Claims Latest in Rivalry Meeting with ETSU

By Daniel Shirley

Their programs have forged quite a history in the Atlantic Sun Conference since East Tennessee State became a member for the 2005-06 season.

Along with the history, a pretty intense rivalry has developed as well.

East Tennessee State and Belmont have combined to win the previous six A-Sun men’s basketball conference tournaments, and Belmont will get the chance to extend that streak to seven on Saturday. The Bruins defeated the Bucs 69-61 on Friday night at the University Center.

It was a typical hard-fought game between the two teams, and it was tense from the outset.

“It’s always a tough game when we play them,” Belmont’s Ian Clark said. “Every year when we go up there, it’s a big crowd, and those people have some bad blood for Belmont University. They always come out and play hard and compete against us, and we know it’s going to be a difficult game.

“Our guys just have to come out and play hard and match them.”

Belmont won both games in the regular season by scores of 82-70 and 80-59. This year’s Bruins’ sweep just adds to the long rivalry, and the intensity of the series is matched not only by the level of play but also the importance of the games. The Bruins won the tournament championship in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2011.

ETSU stopped the Bruins’ dominance for two years, winning the title in 2009 and 2010.

Belmont leads the all-time series 15-8 and 3-1 in tournament games. The two teams had faced off twice before in the semifinals in 2008 and 2009 with each team winning once. The Bruins also beat the Bucs in the 2007 championship game.

“Give East Tennessee State credit,” Belmont Head Coach Rick Byrd said. “They play hard, and they compete, and it was a terrific game. We’re just happy to get another chance to play.”

The intensity of the rivalry was in full force Friday. With large crowds for both teams cheering on their players, the Bucs and Bruins went at each other in a well-played, hotly contested game.

ETSU controlled the first half and built a 31-26 lead at the break. But Belmont responded with a strong second half, outscoring the Bucs 43-30 in the final 20 minutes.

The key was an 18-4 run by Belmont to start the second half as it took control of the game and held the lead the rest of the way.

“Resiliency is the word for this team all year,” Belmont’s Kerron Johnson said. “Every person on that bench wants to take the big shot, and when you have that many guys who are mentally tough and who want those shots, it’s great. Coach always tells us to be ready for that shot and don’t hesitate.”

Daniel Shirley is the sports editor of The Telegraph in Macon. Follow complete coverage of the 2012 General Shale Brick A-Sun Basketball Championship at www.macon.com/mercer and follow Daniel at @DM_Shirley for live updates throughout the tournament.

McGowan No Small Part of Stetson's Success

By Brandon Webb

Standing just 5-foot-5, Victoria McGowan looks more like a ballgirl than a ballplayer.

But don’t let her stature fool you. The smallest girl on the court wasn’t handing out towels or dishing out cups of water on the Stetson bench.

Instead, McGowan was piecing together a triple-double – her third of the season and a total that leads the nation -- en route to leading the Hatters to a 67-60 victory over Jacksonville on Friday in the semifinals of the General Shale Brick A–Sun Women’s Championship at Mercer’s University Center.

The junior scored 21 points, pulled down 10 rebounds and doled out 10 assists for Stetson, which will meet Florida Gulf Coast University at noon Saturday in the championship game.

In fact, about the only thing you could take her to task for was missing one of her seven free throws.

The A-Sun Women’s Player of the Year, however, had no inkling that something special was on the horizon when she awoke in her hotel room this morning.

“You’d think you might feel something before going out and having a good game, but I didn’t,” McGowan said. “Really, it was the opposite.”

McGowan , who shot 3-for-9 from behind the arc, said she was miserably “off” during the team’s shoot-around earlier in the day.

“I’ve been dreaming about this game, especially after Wednesday’s game, when I didn’t shoot very well,” McGowan said. “I missed a lot of easy shots.”

McGowan scored 15 points against USC Upstate in the quarterfinals. That’s deceiving, however, because she made only seven of 27 shots.

No matter. McGowan went from “cold” to “gold” – as in the Midas touch against – in the semifinals.

“She’s pretty amazing, isn’t she,” Stetson head coach Lynn Bria said. “We’re kind of spoiled because we’re used to it. I think sometimes the rest of our players just stand around and watch her.

“I just think it takes a special player to contribute through so many ways. She’s a special player and it’s been fun to have a front-row seat for it.”

Asked after the game whether her shot from beyond half court against Belmont at the buzzer in last year’s tournament to escape the semifinals before beating this same Dolphins team in the finals was more exciting than Friday’s day of work, McGowan didn’t hesitate.

“The shot was more exciting, of course,” McGowan said.

Bria quickly chimed in, “The coach prefers the triple-double.”

Brandon Webb is a freelance sports writer based out of Macon, Ga. He can be reached at saintsno8@aol.com.

Jacobson in the Right Place at the Right Time for FGCU

By Brandon Webb

A funny thing happened on one of Karl Smesko’s recruiting trips about five years ago.

The Florida Gulf Coast head women’s basketball coach was attending an AAU Tournament where he was to scout promising prospect Courtney Chihil. Only Chihil was a no-show.

Still, Smesko hung around and another player caught his eye, not necessarily by her performance. Rather, it was how she played.

That player? Kelsey Jacobson.

“As I recall, she didn’t shoot it well,” Smesko said. “But you could tell that she was working hard to get shots and her teammates kept looking to her. I had a feeling that she was a player.”

Smesko called Jacobson in her hometown of Barnesville, Minn., to see if she would come to Florida for a visit.

“When we brought her down, I knew immediately that she was my kind of player,” Smesko said.

That fateful scouting trip and the subsequent phone call landed the Atlantic Sun Conference’s most prolific 3-point shooter ever, where she joined Chihil.

Jacobson added four more three-pointers to her career A-Sun mark on Friday as FGCU easily dispatched Kennesaw State, 76-53, in the General Shale Brick A-Sun Championship at Mercer’s University Center.

Jacobsen, a 2011-12 Second Team All-Atlantic Sun selection, now has 329 career three-pointers, sitting alone as the conference’s all-time leader from beyond the arc. Eighty-one of her 96 field goals this season have come from long distance. And she enjoyed her 19th multiple three-point game in 30 tries this season.

The senior, however, wasn’t born with natural shooting ability.

In fact, don’t call her a pure shooter.

“People have always said that I’m a pure shooter, but I completely disagree with that,” said Jacobson, whose 1,265 points stands second on the school’s all-time scoring list behind Adrianne McNally (1,415). “To be a really great shooter takes a lot of work.”

When Jacobson’s dad started working with her in the seventh grade, she worked solely on form – twice a day -- exclusively from inside the three-point line. For a full year, she never took a shot from three-point range.

“It taught me the value of developing form,” Jacobson said. “You don’t want to be pushing your shot at such a young age.”

Which is why Jacobson was so disappointed with her play in the quarterfinals against East Tennessee State, where she struggled to just 1-for-6 from behind the arc.

“My teammates will tell you I’m pretty hard on myself, especially after a game like that,” Jacobson said. “I put a lot of time into working on my shot, and when I get on the court I want to be able to provide something to my team.

“I know my teammates are working hard to get me shots, so I need to knock those shots down for them.”

That desire, along with several of her teammates’ hot hands, have propelled the Eagles (28-2) to an unbeaten conference record and landed them in the A-Sun Women’s final at Noon on Saturday.

“I decided when I was seven years old that I wanted to play Division I basketball,” Jacobson said. “It’s all I wanted. I focused on that every day.

“Tomorrow will probably be my last game. I have no illusions of playing in the WNBA or overseas, so it’s going to be the culmination of everything I’ve done since I was seven.”

Brandon Webb is a freelance sports writer that resides in Macon, Ga. He can be reached at saintsno8@aol.com