Maintaining a No. 1 ranking in a national poll over a two-week period, especially this late in a season, says a lot about where a team is at.
And of course, putting five players on All-Mid-South Conference lists and four additional hands on the All-MSC Academic list says a lot about where a team is at, too.
Jeff Nickel won the Mid-South Conference’s Coach of the Year Award, Madison Ridout, Ashton Lovely, Bailey Cummins, Hannah Miller, and Lydia Poe all made First or Second-Team All-MSC, and Cummins, Miller, Ridout, and Shania Massie all obtained All-Academic MSC honors to put the Bears in an exceptional category among its Mid-South competition at the annual Mid-South Conference banquet on Wednesday evening.
Nickel, who holds a 156-36 overall record as a head coach (following Shawnee State’s 111-49 victory over Life (Ga.) on Wednesday evening, has led Shawnee State to a 28-3 overall record over the 2017-18 campaign. This season marked the third consecutive year that the Bears won the Mid-South Conference Tournament Championship, and will mark the third consecutive season that SSU has posted a winning percentage of at least 80 percent or better.
“We’ve had a lot of great players who are dedicated,” Nickel said. “That’s a credit to the players, as well as the coaching staff, for building this program into where it is today. We’ve put ourselves in a position to win on a nightly basis, which has, in turn, allowed us to compete for championships at both the conference level and the national level. A lot of credit goes to those people, my family, and all of the additional individuals who have contributed to our cause.”
Ridout, Lovely, Cummins, and Miller, who all obtained First-Team All-MSC honors, have contributed to an offense that is second in the nation in scoring margin (25.3), field goal percentage (46.9), and total scoring offense (2,427) and third in defensive field goal percentage (33.5), defensive three-point field goal percentage (23.9), and scoring offense (80.9). Poe added Second-Team All-MSC honors despite exclusively coming off of the bench during the 2017-18 campaign.
“It means a lot to have four players selected First-Team All-MSC, and five overall,” Nickel said. “It says a lot about our talent and depth.”
In addition to their All-MSC honors, Cummins, Miller, and Ridout, along with Massie, obtained All-Academic MSC honors by posting at least a 3.25 GPA or higher in their respective courses. The additional two players that were eligible — Lovely and Poe — just missed the mark and have GPA’s well north of the 3.0 range.
“It’s great,” Nickel said. “Four of our six eligible players got it, and the additional pair missed it, by very little, so it says a lot about our program and the academic standards that we have.”
Overall, Shawnee State, who held the No. 1 ranking for a second consecutive poll, claimed 219 points and all nine first-place votes in the NAIA Division I Coaches Poll. Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.) still sits second, seven points back of the Bears.
“They’ve played to a high standard all year,” Nickel said. “They have high expectations and they play extremely hard. I’m very proud of them and my coaching staff and what we have been able to accomplish together as a unit.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @KColleyPDT