2008-09 Women's Basketball Season Recap: One for the Record Books
March 25, 2009
It’s been nearly one week since the record-breaking 2008-09 season for the LSUS Lady Pilots came to an end at the hands of the Oklahoma Baptist Lady Bison in the NAIA Division 1 Women’s Basketball National Tournament; however, the lasting memories from the most special season in the history of the LSUS Women’s Basketball program will not soon be forgotten.
The list of single-season and team records that the Lady Pilots set in 2008-09 is almost too many to name. If there was a record to be broken in this unforgettable season, it was.
The Lady Pilots began the 2008-09 season winning 16 of their first 17 games, including a school-record 14 straight from Nov. 15 to Jan. 24. On January 17, the Lady Pilots established a new single-season record for most wins with 14, breaking the old record of 13 from the previous four seasons.
After beginning the season on such an incredible hot streak, the Lady Pilots were rewarded on Jan. 12 with the first-ever national ranking in the NAIA Division 1 Women’s Basketball Coaches’ Top 25 Poll. They entered their first poll at the No. 22 spot and eventually moved up to No. 21 which is currently the highest ranking ever achieved by the Lady Pilots.
As the season moved foward, the wins continued to pile up. Coach Howell and his Lady Pilots finished the regular season with 25 wins and a second-place finish in the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference standings. As a result, the Lady Pilots earned a No. 2 seed in the GCAC Tournament and hosted their first-ever conference tournament game on March 4 versus SUNO.
LSUS went on to defeat SUNO and then Xavier in the tournament semifinals to advance to their first-ever GCAC Tournament championship game, while also qualifying for the NAIA National Tournament for the first time in the program’s history. Despite falling in the conference title game versus Loyola, the Lady Pilots received the conference’s second automatic bid to nationals as a result of playing the regular season champion in the finals of the tournament.
On March 19, the Lady Pilots made history once again by playing in the program’s first-ever NAIA National Tournament game. Although the Lady Pilots fell to the No. 1 seeded Lady Bison, the experience of making it out to the national tournament and playing against the nation’s best will pay dividends for the future.
The Lady Pilots were led by a trio of all-conference selections in 2008-09. Janai Sells, Whitney Hollins and Valerie Huizar were each named to the All-GCAC First Team, while Huizar was also honored as the GCAC Newcomer of the Year.
Sells finished her senior campaign as the school’s all-time leading rebounder with 606 career rebounds. Despite missing nearly half of the season due to a foot injury, Sells provided the Lady Pilots with a dominating presence in the paint, averaging 11 PPG and a team-high 7.5 rebounds.
Hollins made a huge splash in her second season with the Lady Pilots, establishing herself as one of the premier three-point shooters in the county. Hollins averaged 11.6 PPG, while starting in all 33 games played. She ended the 2008-09 season shooting over 39% from the three-point line and set the LSUS record for most made three-pointers in a single season with 88. Hollins also etched her name in the record books on Feb. 28 by knocking down an LSUS single-game record eight three-point baskets versus SUNO.
Huizar, a junior college transfer from Lon Morris College, arguably made the biggest impact for her team during her first season in a Lady Pilot’s uniform. Huizar led the Lady Pilots in both scoring (11.7 PPG) and assists (5.2 APG), while re-writing the record books with a single-season school record 171 assists. She also led the GCAC in assists and tied the single-game school record with 12 on Feb. 19 versus Mobile.
Head Coach Ronnie Howell was also named the 2009 GCAC Coach of the Year after leading his team to a school-record 27 wins. Under his guidance, the Lady Pilots established a new record for the highest single-season winning percentage in the program’s history at .818 (27-6). After winning just 13 games in the previous four seasons, Howell took to the Lady Pilots to new heights in 2008-09, and has the future of the program looking very bright.
In addition to all of the above mentioned records the Lady Pilots set in 2008-09, they also established new team records for most points scored (65. PPG), fewest points allowed (56.3 PA/G), most field goals (768), field-goal percentage (.428) most three-pointers (193), highest three-point field goal percentage (.343), most rebounds (38.7 RPG), and most assists (14.7 APG).
With their two leading scorers (Hollins and Huizar) and another starter (Tish Flowers) coming back for another season, the Lady Pilots have a solid foundation to build on. If Coach Howell can find some quality replacements to fill in the spots created by the loss of his top three post players (Sells, Quan Joseph and Jamien Arvie), the 2009-10 season might be one for the record books as well.