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Underdog Archers Head to NJCAA Division II Tournament

March 19, 2012

Paige Laird  
The Archers' Paige Laird at 6-feet will be counted on heavily to combat the inside presence of 6-1 Allie Gloyd of Mesa College in STLCC's opening contest in the NJCAA Women's Division II Tournament Wednesday at Illinois Central College.

In a year in which the St. Louis Community College women’s basketball team went from youthful underdog early in the season to the top-seeded team in Region XVI, the Archers had their share of peaks and valleys.

Through it all, however, the Archers (20-8) find themselves in the National Junior College Athletic Association Women’s Division II Tournament, a sizeable goal the team set for itself at the season’s outset.

NJCAA Tournament Logo  

As a No. 12 seed in the tournament hosted by Illinois Central College in East Peoria, Ill., STLCC is again playing the role of the underdog. That suits the Archers and head coach Shelly Ethridge just fine.

“We just told the kids that the pressure is finally off,” Ethridge said. “We have nothing to lose and everything to gain. The hard work is already over, so now we just need to enjoy it.”

Ethridge’s team has had plenty to enjoy in the past month. Including their two games in the Region XVI Tournament, the Archers have reeled of 10 consecutive victories. They now face a Mesa Community College team that has enjoyed a 24-7 record and entered the tournament ranked sixth in the most recent NJCAA national poll. Despite the stiff competition awaiting them, the Archers remain undaunted in their pursuit of a first-round upset.

“I think we’re going in with a lot of confidence,” Ethridge said. “We do have our work cut out for us. They have a really good inside game and a guard that we’ll need to be concerned about. Their size is something that can give us some havoc, but if we can execute and win the battle of the boards, our chances of winning are fairly good.”

That likely means key minutes for freshman forward Paige Laird (Wesclin), who saw her playing time increase significantly in the second half of the year. At 6-0, Laird becomes an essential defensive presence when combating larger players with a power inside game. Laird and sophomore forward Shonnisha Davis (Normandy) will be tasked with containing Mesa’s Allie Gloyd, a 6-1 sophomore center who averaged 15 points and 8.7 rebounds per game this season. Gloyd was the Region I Player of the Year and was named to the NJCAA All-America second team in 2011.

Offensively, the Archers will look to their trio of sharp-shooting freshman guards, Shakaunna Futrell (Hazelwood West), Cierra Gaines (Edwardsville) and Datona Ball (Quincy, Ill.). Those three combined for 36 points per game this year, each averaging at least 11 per contest.

Davis, Laird, Futrell, Ball and Gaines will be in the Archers’ starting lineup Wednesday. Gloyd will be joined in the Mesa starting unit by freshman forward Miriam Ridgwell, sophomore forward Jade Wilson, and sophomore guards Kalasia Green and Jenay Locke.

STLCC and Mesa will tip off their first-round game at 11 a.m. Wednesday. Fans can watch the game live streamed at http://www.ihigh.com/icccougars.

The winner advances to face either fourth-seeded Louisburg or No. 13 Chesapeake at 8 p.m. Thursday. The loser takes on the loser of the Louisburg-Chesapeake contest at 1 p.m. Thursday.