In basketball, it’s hard to dissect opponents when a unit only has one or two individuals that can perform in all facets of the game.
However, when you have a roster full of talented players that understand their roles and sacrifice their personal stats for the betterment of the team, it allows a unit to nickel-and-dime its opponents at will.
Throughout the course of the 2016-17 campaign, the Shawnee State Bears’ women’s basketball program has done nothing but excel at each of the above three qualities behind the leadership of Jeff Nickel and his staff. That’s evident in the 31-2 record that Shawnee State has obtained throughout the course of the year the 11 straight wins that the Bears have racked up from Jan. 26 to the present day, and the 13 different occasions where Shawnee State has scored at or over 90 points during a contest.
However, when one really looks deep into the heart of the stats, one can see how Shawnee State has obtained so much success throughout the course of the year.
Four players, including Jonessa Moore, Madison Ridout, Brandie Snow, and Bailey Cummins, currently average in double-figures, and three additional players average at least six points per contest for a unit that is first in scoring offense per game (89.3 points), three-point field goal percentage (40.7), and total scoring offense (2,947 points) while tallying up an impressive average of 16.4 assists per affair as a unit.
In Nickel’s eyes, the on-court and off-court results speak volumes about how his players have trusted the entire process as a whole.
“We’re playing really good basketball,” Nickel said. “We’ve just got a good team atmosphere within our program. It’s just a family atmosphere and a team atmosphere that we’ve all worked hard to build from Day One. That’s our culture here, and these kids have been consistent all season long in following and staying true to that message. We’ve just a group full of kids that want to win. They’re competitive, they’re driven, they’re motivated, and they don’t really get caught up in personal accolades. They just want to win, and they want to figure out what they’ve got to do every night in order to win.”
For people that have seen or heard about the Bears over the course of the 2016-17 campaign, Jonessa Moore is widely considered to be Shawnee State’s main piece in the middle of the floor.
A highly-touted player from her time at Cincinnati State, Moore has met and exceeded the hype since becoming eligible for the Bears during the second half of the 2015-16 campaign, as the senior’s 18.7 points, 7.7 rebounds and 58.7 percent shooting in 2016-17 are all vast improvements from her impressive initial campaign with Shawnee State, where she averaged 7.2 points and 3.6 rebounds per contest on a 55 percent mark in just 16 affairs.
The team, however, is far from a one-person crew.
Take Mid-South Conference Defensive Player of the Year recipient Madison Ridout, for example. The junior forward from nearby Jackson, Ohio not only shows off a well-rounded offensive game in averaging 13 points, five rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.2 steals per affair for Shawnee State, but has also shown durability by totaling a team-high 31.5 minutes played per contest.
Normally, freshmen have a difficult time adjusting to the pace of contests. Brandie Snow and Bailey Cummins, however, have made the transition from the high school game to the college game look seamless with their all-around efforts.
Snow, the MSC’s Freshman of the Year, has averaged 12.5 points per contest, 6.4 rebounds per affair, and 2.1 steals per game while accumulating a 53.2 percent mark from the floor and a blistering 49.4 percent mark (41-of-83) from three-point range, while Cummins, who could have arguably shared MSC Freshman of the Year honors with Snow, has averaged 11.2 points, 3.8 assists, 2.9 rebounds, and 1.2 steals on 49.4 percent shooting, including a red-hot 49.5 percent mark (53-of-107) from three-point territory.
Then, there’s Jen Arnzen, the hometown hero and graduate of Notre Dame who has made tremendous strides throughout her four-year career as a Shawnee State product.
In her swan-song campaign with the Bears, Arnzen has obtained 8.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, a 53.2 percent shooting mark from the field, and a simply incredible 51.2 percent mark (44-of-86) from distance.
“Joey (Jonessa Moore) has been very, very solid, but our whole group’s been very solid,” Nickel said. “It’s not been a one-person show. There’s been a lot of balance. Madison’s been extremely solid; we’ve gotten great point guard play out of Bailey, great off-guard play out of Brandie, Jen has been stellar all season long at the four-spot, and Joey, again, has been solid at the five. It’s hard to leave any person out because they all have played integral roles in our success.”
That includes the Shawnee State bench, which has proven itself as a unit to be reckoned with in its own right.
To start, there’s sixth man Ashton Lovely, who could be a starter on the vast majority of units in the NAIA Division I realm. The sophomore from Greeneview, Ohio pushed through an injury-plaque campaign to score 18 and 19 points, respectively, in the Bears’ final pair of regular season affairs against Campbellsville and Lindsey Wilson. She averages 7.6 points per affair. Then, there’s Lydia Poe, another Jackson, Ohio native who offers an excellent scoring and rebounding threat inside with her 6.4 points, 4.7 rebounds and 57.4 percent shooting from the field.
And even outside of the main pair, there’s more depth on the Shawnee State roster.
Local guards Shania Massie and Hannah Miller, with their 4.8 and 4.5 points per contest, bring good size and a nice scoring punch as backups. In addition to their scoring abilities, the former has added 1.4 assists and nearly one steal per affair to the table, while the latter holds a solid 37.5 percent shooting mark from the field. Carson Roney, an Eastern High School transplant, brings excellent length to the table at 6-1, while Jenna Brown adds an intense on-ball defender to complete a roster full of depth, grit, and talent.
“Lydia’s been an anchor inside in the post,” Nickel said. “She’s come in and has given us crucial minutes when we’ve really needed them. Carson’s really come on as of late, and she’s been able to get in the regular conditioning and flow of college basketball. Then there’s Ashton, Shania, and Hannah, who are additional guard options that have been excellent for us off of the bench and give us great depth if we need them to step up or if we are in foul trouble. We just have a really solid group of kids, and they have worked together to comprise a great team. We’ve been able to go 10-deep all season long, and that’s because all of our girls bring a lot of value and options to our arsenal.”
However, as with most of the units that Nickel and his predecessor, Robin Hagen-Smith, have coached, this Shawnee State unit is talented off of the floor, as well as on it.
In all, a total of five players, including Arnzen, Brown (the MSC Champions of Character Award winner), Massie, Miller, and Ridout were all named as All-Academic MSC honorees. When one considers the fact that freshmen aren’t eligible to win MSC Academic honors, that makes the feat all the more impressive considering that Shawnee State put 63 percent of its eligible players on the All-Academic list.
Which all goes to show everyone that the standards for the blue-blood basketball program haven’t, and won’t, change, as the 85-18 record and the three consecutive Mid-South Conference Tournament Championships go to show.
“We have high standards at Shawnee State, and that’s not changed,” Nickel said. “We just try to go out and be the best version of us that we can be while trying to put God first and holding ourselves to a high standard. That’s what our program was built on, that’s what we’ve done, and that’s what we’ll continue to do. We’ve got some good players, but even better people, and I’m really proud of that.”
The No. 1-seeded Bears will play No. 8-seeded William Woods (Mo.) in the first round of the NAIA Division I Tournament on Thursday, March 16 at 6:30 p.m in Billings, Montana. Shawnee State defeated William Woods in the pair’s lone meeting, 69-47, in the same situation five years prior.
Interested fans can watch the contests at Buffalo Wild Wings in Portsmouth, Jazzman’s Cafe on the campus of Shawnee State University, or or at home via the NAIA Network at this link: https://www.naianetwork.com/. The NAIA charges $9.95 for one day of the tournament, or $29.95 for the whole tournament.
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930