For years, Cedarville has been the thorn in the Shawnee State womens' paw. But after the Bears viciously swatted away their rivals last week, the team now can turn to more important things, like winning the AMC South - and maybe doing it unblemished.
SSU's journey toward perfection and the NAIA Tournament continues today against Ohio Dominican, the next roadblock on the path. The 16th-ranked Lady Panthers will be one of the more difficult tasks facing the ninth-ranked Bears this season, but nowadays, nothing seems too harrowing for the squad.
That doesn't mean the team can let up, however.
The Bears (17-2, 5-0 AMC) are on a six-game winning streak after pasting the Lady Jackets by 27 on Tuesday and have been utilizing most, if not all of their strengths during their run. No team has shot better than 38 percent from the field as the team has started a habit of locking the opposition down in the second half - and sometimes even right after the tip-off. In fact, in only one game this season, the first game of the season against the University of the Cumberlands, have the Bears allowed an opponent to shoot better than 40 percent.
The team also has shot the lights out from beyond the arc, shooting 3-pointers at a 36.2 percent rate. Shawnee State has three players in the top 10 in the conference, led by Shannon Leasure's 46 percent. Mallory Albers, who leads the team in made 3s, is just a shade behind at 44 percent and Jennifer Grandy in ninth in the AMC, despite only playing in 13 games.
But if there was one team who could match Shawnee State's long-range efficiency, it would be Ohio Dominican. The Lady Panthers lead the conference in 3-point offense and are second in 3-point defense. Cassidy Wertman and Kaytlin Beck each had made 40 3s on the season, meaning Shawnee State's perimeter defense will get tested.
Ohio Dominican (14-5, 4-1 AMC), like SSU has developed a solid outside-inside game, in part to 5-foot-9 forward Krissy Haines, who leads the team at 15.8 points a game.
The game against the Lady Panthers is the third game of a four-game stretch where SSU has had to face its top competition in the conference. If the Bears get by ODU, the final leg will be on the road against Urbana, who is making a strong push. With only a handful of games remaining, the ultimate prize, a trip to the National Tournament gets closer and closer. But now is not the time to have a wide view of things. The Bears' focus must continue to stay narrow.
Tip-off is 2 p.m. at the James A. Rhodes Center.
JEFF TAEPKE can be reached at (740) 353-3101 ext. 242.