Both the women’s and men’s basketball teams have secured spots in the American Southwest Conference play. This is the women’s fourth and the men’s sixth time to consecutively compete in the tournament. The men have made it to ASC play 10 out of 11 years.
Lady Cru head coach Kim Kirkpatrick-Thornton said the team’s success is a result of hard work.
“It’s been a good season but a little bit like a roller coaster,” she said. “We’ve played at times the best we have since I’ve been here. We’ve had some good wins and beat some top teams.”
The women have had monumental accomplishments. They beat Howard Payne, the defending national champs, Jan. 17, which broke the Yellow Jackets’ 42 home game winning streak.
The women have also faced setbacks with early season injuries. Junior Stacie Stephens, a past starter, tore her ACL and junior Courtney Wolfe is out due to a foot injury.
The women have designated time to conditioning and strengthening.
“They put in a lot of hours of hard work,” Kirkpatrick-Thornton said. “But it’s not just the hours; it’s what they put into the hours.”
The coach said the team has made improvements.
“Mentally, we’ve grown,” she said. “We were fairly young last year, so I feel like (the players) understand the game as a whole this season, and that helps us.”
Kirkpatrick-Thornton believes the lady Cru’s strength is in their defense.
“It has been strong in helping us win some games,” she said. “We’ve improved in ball handling. It’s not where it needs to be, but it has improved.”
She said the lady Cru have come together as a whole.
“This team especially works hard together and competes from beginning to end,” she said. We are a well balanced team … (and) have some solid players.”
The UMHB women are 13-12 overall and 12-9 in conference. They are focused on their goal, winning the conference tournament.
Sophomore Caitlin Barganier said, “Even going in as the fourth place team, we have a great chance of winning.”
Barganier said the team works well together and its chemistry has played a major role in this year’s success.
“This season has had its ups and downs, but we have all managed to stick closely together and play to the best of our ability,” Barganier said. “Everybody has different roles on this team, and we all use that to our advantage and come together to be the best we can be. We push each other to our limits, but we also pull each other up when we fall down.”
The Cru is thankful for their supporters.
Kirkpatrick-Thornton said, “We’re appreciative for the student body, staff, faculty and administrative support. It humbles us.”
The Cru’s record is 18-7 overall and 16-5 conference. The team is in the second seed for the tournament.
Head coach Ken DeWeese keeps a positive attitude.
“We’ve been very successful every season,” he said. “We have work ethic.”
DeWeese said the Cru is made up of a good group of players.
“They’ve been more than enjoyable.”
Senior post player Michael Ivey is happy with the season’s progress.
“We started off slow, but we are playing really great right now,” he said. “Even though we’re not finished, the season so far has been great.”
Ivey is looking forward to tournament play.
“We are confident but anxious,” he said. “We are ready to get this underway.”
The ASC tournament for both is Feb. 27-March 1 in Dallas.