Greenville Basketball Wrap-Up: After Tough Season, Panthers Set Eyes to Redemption.
Disappointing, is the only way to describe the Greenville Panthers basketball season this year. Both the men’s and women’s teams battled through a long schedule all season and failed to put up a playoff record.
After a promising start to the season, with five wins in a row, including a 92-78 conference win over Principia, the men’s team quickly faltered. Two quick blowouts by Webster (91-61) and Mid-Continent (105-80) sent the Panthers into a season long fluster that they could not seem to find their way out of. Through the long season, the only thing separating a 13 game losing streak were two victories against the inferiorly talented Blackburn College. In fact, Blackburn and Principia were the only conference teams Greenville topped all season. They beat each of them twice to finish with a conference record of 4-12, and an overall record of 9-16.
So what happened? The Panthers lost six games by more than 20 points. In eleven contests they lost by double digits. Only five times during the season they lost a close battle. Against teams they were supposed to beat, they annihilated, but when facing teams that provided a close matchup, the Panthers often looked confused. This forced Coach Barber to implement a few changes in the middle of the season. First, the Panthers started to use a 2-3 zone instead of their bread and butter full-court press to man defense. In hindsight the change may have backfired at the Panthers. The players slowly lost defensive intensity, and it proved ineffective. Secondly, the Panthers sent several transfer players down to the JV squad after a fifth straight loss to try to shake thing up. The group included team leading scorer, MarQuel Jones who had averaged 13.5 points per game. For a while, the buzz on campus was all about how this dramatic decision by coach destroyed the team’s chances to win. Really? True, it makes no sense to send down your leading scorer no matter what the circumstance. However, need I point out that the teams record already stood at a whopping 7-11 at that time? The way they played before the player swap had destroyed the season already. Could there have been something else that caused coach to make the decision—something hidden behind team doors we do not, and will never know about?
In the midst of a hazy season, junior, Alex Mumphard shone brightly, leading the team with 12.7 points per game and 3.6 assists per game. Sophomore, Todd Albertson led the team with 5.1 rebounds per game, and transfer junior, Daniel Anderson led the team with 1.6 steals per game. The good news- all three of these guys potentially will return next season, along with freshman phenoms Tim Daniel and Brian Ehresman, who made immediate impact when given meaningful minutes. A strong mix of skilled veterans and developing talent for next year’s team may flirt more towards last year’s 15-9 record than the unfortunate 9-16 record of this year.
On the other side of the spectrum, the women’s team did not have quite the same disappointment. In terms of a winning season they squeaked by with a 13-12 overall record and halted at an 8-8 conference record. While not eye popping, the record significantly trumps last year’s miserable 7-18 finish.
Like the men, the women began the season with a 5-0 winning streak. Soon afterwards, a crushing defeat by Hannibal-La Grange (69-47) launched the rollercoaster of a season the Panthers came to face, with the magic number of three. A win against St Mary-Woods preceded three losses, followed by another win. Three more straight losses spawned the biggest question of the season. What tactics did Eureka, Spalding, and West Minister enforce that the Panthers could not figure out? Against Eureka the problem was plain and simple; the Panthers could not grab a rebound. In both contests the Red Devils outrebounded the Panthers by a considerable margin, reaching a deficit of 23 in their second meeting. In their meetings with Spalding, Kelly Harrod was their only hindrance, torching them with over twenty points both times. West Minister proved the most frustrating. Each game the Panthers lost by less than ten points, including a close 58- 52 loss. The Panthers shot a higher field goal percentage, grabbed more rebounds and had more assists, but still suffered a loss due to unexplainable free throw shooting.
With a just a couple of wins against one of these three teams, the whole story of the Panthers season is rewritten. The Lady Panthers went on to have two more three game win streaks, including one to end the season strong.
Leading the Panthers in scoring, Laura Hobbie averaged 11.8 points per game. Ieisha Adamsalso contributed 11.1 points per game, along with a team leading 5.1 assists per game. Post players Kayla Hyde and Katelyn Wise also made their presence felt with 7.2 and 9.4 points per game respectively. Six foot freshman Coley Baker brought the most pleasant surprise of the season. The forward scored nine points a game, and exceeded all teammates with an eye popping 8 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per game. The team will certainly miss the leadership of seniors Hobbie and Adams next year, but a returning core consisting of Emily Gundy, Baker and Hyde still packs a punch in a Panthers lineup that is ready to build upon their turnaround season.
Basketball at Greenville flopped drastically for the men, and improved minutely for the women. Painful seasons like this are hard to swallow and move on from, but the Panthers will move on. Right now it is no wonder why Greenville is not going to see any March Madness of their own, but with a few offseason adjustments, the Panthers will be back and ready for redemption.