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Youthful Archers Head into Regional Tourney Ranked 20th Nationally

March 09, 2012

Shonnisha Davis  
Shonnisha Davis is just one of two sophomores on the
STLCC women's team that has earned a No. 20 ranking
nationally and the top seed in the Region XVI Tournament.

For most coaches, starting four freshmen just one year removed from more than 20 wins and a trip to the national tournament would mean a rebuilding campaign.

Instead, Shelly Ethridge reloaded.

The St. Louis Community College head women’s basketball coach re-tooled her team by adding 12 freshmen, with just two sophomores on the roster.

Predictably, they had some early growing pains. The Archers struggled in close games through the first half, particularly on the road.

After returning from a two-game swing in Florida at the conclusion of winter break, the Archers stood at 5-7 and had not won a road game in more than a month.

The month that followed, however, placed the Archers on track for their current position as the top seed in the Region XVI Tournament, which opens today in Sedalia, Mo.

The Archers won 12 of their next 14 games, and, with the addition of a recently announced forfeit by Malcolm X College, finished the regular season at 18-8, helping them to their first national ranking of the year, coming in at No. 20.

“It’s very rewarding, and it’s all to these kids,” Ethridge said. “We’ve definitely worked hard to put it all together, and with their efforts, we were able to do it. I knew it was going to take some time, but we also knew we could do it by the end of the season.”

Ethridge also credited members of her former teams for their influence in speeding up the learning curve for many of the freshmen.

“Our alumnae were very much involved,” Ethridge said. “They worked out with us during open gyms in the summer, they would talk about how difficult practices could be, and that if you believe in the system and Coach (Melanie) Marcy, things will work out.”

Have they ever.

One of the key reasons the Archers were able to make their late-season run was due to their newfound success in close games. In the team’s 10-1 finish to the regular season, STLCC was 3-0 in games decided by six points or fewer. Prior to that run, they were 0-3 in such games.

Now, the Archers prepare to begin their third tour through Region XVI opponents, a matchup that is often deemed most difficult for the team that won the previous meetings. STLCC takes on Cottey College in the opening round tonight.

“The third time is always the tough one,” Ethridge said. “It’s March Madness. It doesn’t matter if you’re the top seed or the low seed. You have to put it on the line and play. We’re going in with a lot of confidence, and hopefully we’ll be able to prevail. With us being so young, it’s a little concerning, but we’ll be ready.”