Lady Archers clutch Regional Championship
By: Spencer Gleason
Coming off of an 83-82 double overtime win against rival North Central Missouri College on Jan. 19, the STLCC Lady Archers headed into their final nine games of the regular season with an 11-5 record. They still had games against Region XVI rival Three Rivers Community College, nationally recognized Cottey College, as well as two games against Metropolitan Community College (MCC)-Penn Valley, a team they would potentially face in the playoffs.
Considering the loss of four of their top scorers over the course of the season, who averaged 40 points per game, Head Coach Shelly Ethridge and her coaching staff looked to the nine players on roster to stay on track.
“We’re going to take one game at a time, especially right now, and try to figure everything out and dealing with all the adversity we’ve been dealing with. The kids know that they have something special just with their team right now and their chemistry, and that’s what we’re focusing in on,” Ethridge said following the victory over North Central.
“We’ll let the game play out for itself. I know deep down the kids would still like to win the regional tournament and we certainly can do that. We can do it, but we’re going to approach each game one day at a time and focus in on the little things that are going to make a big difference for us,” Ethridge said.
That was then. This is now.
Fast forward a month later and the Lady Archers, who won five of their last seven regular season games, have found themselves atop the Region XVI. With the District Championship game held this Saturday, March 9 at STLCC-Forest Park against North Arkansas College, the Lady Archers are one win away from a National Tournament playoff bid.
“It’s been an amazing ride. It really has,” Ethridge said before Tuesday’s practice. “To see the team progress as they did, from game to game to game, and to be able to peak at the right moment was just a pleasure to watch. I’m so proud of this team.”
With the first game of the Region XVI Tournament against the regionally ranked No. 2 Cottey College, on March 2, the No. 3 Lady Archers went into the tournament as underdogs. Heading into halftime up by one, 18-17, the Lady Archers came alive in the second half en route to a 56-36 win.
“The first half was just back-and-forth and both teams were very nervous. It was obvious that both teams were just trying to get comfortable in the game,” Ethridge said. “We needed to settle down after that first half. We couldn’t wait for that first half to get finished and in the second half we could finally start playing.”
The win gave STLCC a chance to play in the Region XVI Title game on March 3 against No. 1 MCC-Penn Valley; a team they had just played 11 days before.
“I think it was very beneficial for us. It certainly gave us a lot of confidence going into the Regional Tournament,” Ethridge said. “It also fired up Penn Valley too. But after we beat them here, it gave us a lot of confidence and we had a good game plan, playing them within a week’s time and seeing them again.”
The back-and-forth competition ended with a 66-54 Lady Archer victory and their second Region XVI Championship in as many years. The win also gave Ethridge and Assistant Coach Melanie Marcy their third straight Region XVI Championship.
“It’s been exciting being a part of the coaching staff and helping the team get to the point where they are,” Assistant Coach Lemetrius Jackson said. Jackson, who played for Ethridge and Marcy when they coached the now defunct Meramec Magic in 2010-11, was part of their run to a National Tournament appearance.
“I give all the credit to the team. They had to play the games. We could tell them what to do, but they actually went out there and played,” Jackson said.
As the Lady Archers begin practices for their next challenge, the coaching staff still has the same “one game at a time” mentality that helped them achieve a Regional Championship.
“We’re still doing one game at a time. But every year amazes me in some different way. Last year was so rewarding. Now this year, with the kids hanging in there and believing and trusting in us and the program, it’s just as rewarding,” Ethridge said. “To see everybody step up their game and understand that they all have a roll on this team has been just one of the most enjoyable experiences and everybody is pitching in. So it’s been very, very rewarding and humbling.”