The Sinclair women’s basketball season is over after the Tartan Pride lost to OCCAC co-champions and 5th ranked Owens Community College in the Region XII District I finals, just one game away from the national tournament.
“I guess if we would lose to any team, I would rather it be 5th in the nation than somebody who’s not ranked,” said head coach Victoria Jones. “They won a game already in the [national championship] tournament, that makes the whole league look good and makes you feel a little better about losing to them.”
Sinclair finished the season 27-4 overall, 13-1 in the OCCAC. This put them as co-champions of the OCCAC, a #2 seed in the tournament and a #9 national ranking in the regular season. This is also the first conference banner to be brought home since 2008.
The Pride will be losing some important assets this year, including sophomores Nia Martin, Laquelle Jacobs, Aaryn Evans and Madison Connally-Banks. These four players are the winningest class in Sinclair history, winning 50 out of 62 games.
“We’re losing four players,” Jones said. “Two of them will probably be major, but the more I have these [end of season] meetings, the Nia Martins and the Laquelle Jacobs may not have given us the points but they gave us other stuff. Nia and [Kierre] James split minutes and those breathers help, she hit some 3’s every now and then and is ninth in school history in made three-pointers. Laquelle was a defensive stopper, we always put her on the top player. So I think all four of them will be missed.”
The two major losses are Evans and Connally-Banks, who are the first set of teammates to have over 100 offensive rebounds each in both of their two seasons. Evans was named 2nd Team All-OCCAC, the OCCAC Defensive Player of the Year and the NJCAA District I 1st team. Evans also set Sinclair records being the only player to record over 340 rebounds in each year, and is the only player to have 700 rebounds, 100 steals and 60 blocked shots during her career. She also is the career leader in defensive rebounds with 428. Connally-Banks finished with an OCCAC Honorable Mention.
Along with three other returning players next year are Amanda Schroeder and Kierre James. Schroeder finished the season highly decorated, earning OCCAC Player of the Year, Freshman of the Year, 1st Team All-OCCAC, NJCAA District I Player of the Year, 1st Team NJCAA All-District I, 1st team NJCAA All-Region XII and was awarded OCCAC Player of the Week five times. She set single season school records in points scored with 807, points per game average with 26.03, free throw percentage with 89.1% and 30 or more points 10 time, which is also a career record.
James also earned OCCAC Honorable Mention. She started 26 games for the Pride this year and led the team in assists with 4.6 per game.
In her third full year as head coach, Jones was named the OCCAC Coach of the Year. Jones led the team to their 27-4 finish and now holds the school record for career winning percentage at 70.8% with a record of 68-28.
“It makes it bitter sweet,” said Jones. “You’re thinking if you got the coach of the year, the player of the year, defensive player of the year, I mean all the dominant ones we got, you would think we’re probably the better team and we should’ve won it.”
The Pride will look to improve on their season starting after their two weeks break with open gyms and workouts. “The momentum is there,” Jones said.