B-CU team wins MEAC title; faces Notre Dame on March 23 in their first appearance at NCAA Tournament
BY ANDREAS BUTLER
It has been a historic season for the Bethune-Cookman University Wildcats women’s basketball team and the story isn’t over.
B-CU is headed to the NCAA Tournament for the first time.
The team and school celebrated with an NCAA Tournament Selection Show watch party on Monday night.
The Wildcats face the Notre Dame Fighting Irish to open the tournament in the Chicago Regional on Saturday, March 23 at 11 a.m. inside the Wintrust Arena in Chicago.
Notre Dame will present a tall task. It is the top-seeded team in the region and ranked third nationwide in the polls.
The Fighting Irish have senior guard Arike Ogunbowale (21 ppg, 4.9 rpg); Jessica Shepard (16.5 ppg, 9.9 rpg); junior guard Jackie Young (14.8 ppg, 7.3 rpg); graduate forward Brianna Turner (14.4 ppg, 7.5 rpg) and senior guard Marina Mabrey (13.9 ppg).
“This is an exciting time. We’re getting back in the gym. As a coaching staff, we will scout and get our players ready to play. It’s business as usual, but tonight is what we’ve climbed so far to get responded,” Head Coach Vanessa Blair-Lewis said Monday.
Took MEAC title
Senior guard and leading scorer Angel Golden echoed, “This here is what is all about. Making history.”
Golden is the spark of the team averaging 19.7 points per game.
Bethune-Cookman (21-10) got this far by winning the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) tournament.
It was the first MEAC tournament title for the Wildcats since 1984 back when former football coach Alvin “Shine” Wyatt coached the team.
Golden added, “We finally got to the championship and won for the first time, which is big.”
In the MEAC tournament, the Wildcats took down Norfolk State (57-45) in the championship game and had wins over Coppin State (55-49) and Maryland Eastern-Shore (58-47). They entered the tournament as the third-seeded team.
“We were very excited both players and coaches. We expressed our gratitude for the hard work and dedication for everyone who was along this journey,” said Blair Lewis.
It’s also a wonderful experience for the players throughout this entire season.
Golden said, “Just getting here with these ladies, being a leader and encouraging my teammates is something that I will never forget.”
Other key players
In addition to Golden, the Wildcats have senior forward Chasimmie Brown (10.5 ppg, 8.6
Brown and Walker both are locals, having played high school ball at Deltona and Flagler Palm Coast high schools, respectively.
The Lady Wildcats’ longest win streak was five games and longest losing streak was just two games.
Still, Blair-Lewis knew all season that her team had what it takes to win.
She said, “I thought we had something special with a full roster and all healthy players. We tied for first last year and we expected to ride that wave.”
The Lady Wildcats have had some success in recent years.
The team has now won 20 or more, including games in three straight years. They won a school record 24 last year.
The Wildcats also have won three consecutive MEAC regular season crowns (2016-2018) and appeared in three straight NCAA Women’s National Invitationals.
ABBREVIATION KEY: ppg=points per game, rpg=rebounds per game, apg=assists per game, spg=steals per game, blk or bpg=blocks per game.