Glenville State faces tough regional field

Photo courtesy Mountain East Conference The Glenville State College women’s basketball team celebrates a second consecutive Mountain East Conference tournament championship. The Pioneers earned the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional, which begins play today inside GSC’s Waco Center.

GLENVILLE — The road to the Elite 8 and victory No. 30 of the campaign begins at 5 p.m. today for head coach Kim Stephens’ Glenville State College women’s basketball team as the Pioneers are the top seed and host for the Division II Atlantic Regional being held inside the Waco Center.

Ranked No. 18 (WBCA) in the country, the 29-2 Pioneers are coming off a second consecutive Mountain East Conference tournament title and will face a very familiar foe in No. 8 seed West Liberty (21-9).

The tournament gets underway at noon with Indiana (Pa.) facing sixth-seeded Bowie State (22-5). The Crimson Hawks, who are ranked 14th nationally, earned the No. 3 seed and sport a 26-3 record.

Despite being the No. 2 seed, Virginia Union (27-2) has the highest national ranking (ninth) and will square off against seventh-seeded Edinboro (20-8) at 2:30 p.m. Following the GSC tilt, the four-five matchup will pit California (24-5) and Charleston (25-6). California is led by Atlantic Regional Player of the Year Seairra Barrett. The Golden Eagles came up short versus the Pioneers in the MEC finale, 78-69.

One game prior to that battle, GSC faced off against the Hilltoppers in the MEC semifinals and survived a 32-point, 15-rebound performance from Marissa Brown, who repeated on the all-Atlantic Regional first team, in a 98-85 triumph.

“It is what it is,” Stephens said of having to face WLU for a fourth time. “West Liberty is a tough team. They play hard and with a lot of heart. I was surprised they were an eight seed.

“They are just as good as anyone in this tournament and they shoot the ball better than almost every team in the country. It’s a tough matchup for us. We’ve tweaked a few things, changed a few things and hopefully we can get them one more time.”

Glenville State is led by second team all-Atlantic Regional selection Emily Stoller, who was limited to four points against WLU in the MEC semifinals but sports a team-best 18.3 points per game. MEC Freshman of the Year Re’Shawna Stone, who was named the MEC tournament MVP, led the Pioneers with a game-high 30 points in the last meeting with the Hilltoppers and is second on the team with a 17.5 ppg average.

“That’s the fun part about playing the way we play,” added Stephens, who also receives solid scoring production from Ty Armstrong (12.6), Donasja Scott (11.5), Zakiyah Winfield (9.4) and leading rebounder Courtney Davis (9.2 ppg, 7.4 rpg). “You never know who is going to step up.

“It could be different people. Five people might give you 10 points or three might give you 20. I think that makes us tough to scout. The problem is when they are off at the same time. Things get a little dicey.”

Pioneer Blaize Burgess also had a pair of double figure scoring efforts against West Liberty this season, which included a baker’s dozen the last time out.

“It’s going to be tough,” the MEC Coach of the Year continued about fending off the Hilltoppers once more. “To play the same team four times and it’s really going to be the third time we play them in 30 days. It’s not ideal. All teams are great teams right now.

“You’re not going to get any bad teams in the national tournament. I was really looking forward to playing someone new and beating up on someone new.”

No matter what happens during the NCAA tournament, Stephens wants her team to leave it all on the floor.

“It’s been one of the most incredible things I’ve ever been part of,” Stephens said of the campaign. “How the town has made everything look nice. People are jacked up and excited for it and it’s pretty cool to be part of it.”

Today’s quarterfinal victors will move on to Saturday’s semifinals, which are slated for 5/7:30 p.m. Monday’s title game will tip at 7 p.m.