It’s always nice to be able to shoot the lights out of a basketball.
However, the shooting display that was put on by the Shawnee State Bears’ women’s basketball program on Thursday morning against the Life (Ga.) Running Eagles’ women’s basketball program may require a new definition for how hot Shawnee State was from the field in the Mid-South Conference Tournament’s Opening Round.
The No. 1-seeded Bears — who finished the regular season as the No. 1 overall unit in the NAIA Division I Coaches Poll for a second straight week — set fire to the nets as the Bears shot a ridiculous 58 percent (40-of-69) from the field — including an unbelievable 50 percent (15-of-30) from three-point range while getting a career-high 30 points from Shania Massie, 21 points from Hannah Miller, and 16 points from Ashton Lovely — with the latter eclipsing the 1,000-point barrier for her collegiate career in the process en route to posting a massive 111-49 victory over Life at the Kentucky Exposition Center — the new host of the Mid-South Conference Tournament — en route to advancing to Saturday’s MSC Semifinals.
For Jeff Nickel, it was the simple execution of the gameplan that made Thursday’s contest such a joy to watch.
“We did a really good job attacking the rim,” Nickel said. “That led to Life packing it in a little bit, and as a result, we started to hit some threes. Our ability to penetrate to the basket really opened up a lot of looks from beyond the arc for us, and we were able to hit them. We just had a gameplan going in, and we stuck to it. I was really happy with our transition offense. We did a good job of spreading the floor and running our lanes. We were able to get some easy shots, and we were able to knock down some threes.”
From the outset, the balanced and relentless attack that was the Shawnee State offense showed up early and often. Massie, Cummins, Lovely, Miller, and Ridout scored seven, six, six, six, and four points, respectively as the Bears jumped out to a 29-16 lead during the opening quarter of play by attacking the basket and getting to the free throw line.
“We had a lot of balance,” Nickel said. “I thought that our freshmen played well, and each of them contributed in a variety of ways. I was very happy with all of them. Madison played very solid, as well as Hannah. They both had very solid games. It was just a very good team win. There was a lot of balance from a lot of people and thought that we had a lot of enthusiasm. I couldn’t ask for much more as a head coach.”
In the second quarter of action, Massie and Lovely simply could not be stopped, no matter what Life threw at the standout duo.
With the latter nearing the 1,000-point plateau, the Jamestown, Ohio native simply took over matters to begin the second quarter by finding Madison Ridout for a bucket, then crossing a defender up for a three-ball to put SSU up by a 34-16 count and put herself within a single point of the 1,000-point mark. Then, after Miller and Massie banged home trifectas of their own, Lovely moved up the floor with the basketball, and in the most Ashton Lovely-esque way, used a behind-the-back dribble to create a wide-open lane to the rim for herself in eclipsing the 1,000-point plateau. The Bears ultimately started the second quarter on a 13-0 run and established a 42-19 lead as a result.
“I’m so proud of Ashton,” Nickel said. “She had so many setbacks and has overcome so much over the last three seasons. To see her obtain 1,000 points, and do it in the conference tournament, no less, was really special to watch. I can’t say enough about how happy I am for her and how proud I am of her.”
From there, Lovely, Massie, and Ridout continued to scorch the nets. After four consecutive points from Waverly native Laken Smith, the trio each added a second three in the quarter as Shawnee State took off on an 11-2 run en route to obtaining a 57-23 advantage. The middle of the trio then added nine third quarter points as the Bears continued to pull away all the way up to the final horn.
“It was a great game,” Nickel said. “Our kids played with a lot of energy and played very well defensively over the entire game. Shania had a monster game, and was able to go out and hit a variety of shots. She was hitting from three-point range, she was heading to the basket, and she did a lot of positive things. It was great to see her have a game like that.”
For the contest,
Massie, who easily put together the best shooting performance of her career in the victory, went an astonishing 12-of-15 floor en route to an 80 percent shooting performance — including a 5-of-8 mark from deep. Massie also collected five rebounds, five assists, and two steals for the contest, while Miller, behind her proficiency from the field, obtained her point total via 7-of-11 shooting from the floor — including 4-of-7 shooting from three-point range —in the contest and collected eight rebounds for the affair.
Lovely, who added six rebounds, Ridout, who finished with 14 points in addition to her eight rebounds, and Bailey Cummins, who put together an impressive statline of 11 points, five assists, and five steals to just one turnover, rounded out the double-figure scorers, while Smith, Hagen Schaefer, Leah Wingeier, and Sienna King scored eight, seven, five, and two points respectively, to round out the scoring. Wingeier added an impressive eight rebounds and three assists to her statline.
With the victory, Shawnee State will move on to the Mid-South Conference Tournament Semifinals against No. 4 Cumberland (Tenn.) who awaits the Bears on Saturday morning at 10 a.m. But for now, the focus is on the junior off-guard who, along with Ridout, have eclipsed the 1,000-point mark for their collegiate careers — an impressive stat no matter how it’s sliced.
“They’ve played together over their entire careers here at Shawnee State, and to see them eclipse that milestone and share it together in the same season says a lot about our team and our program,” Nickel said. “They’ve both been very successful here, have won a lot of games, have been a part of a lot of great teams, and played with a lot of great players. It means a lot to see two people break a milestone that can not only score the basketball, but also, play defense, play hard, rebound, and share the basketball. They’re complete players. To have two people like that on this team is very special.”
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