Basketball to Open 2013-14 Season at AMCATS Classic this Weekend

Pine Manor College Women’s Basketball will open the 2013-14 season this weekend when they take on Bay Path College at the 2013 AMCATS Classic Tip-Off Tournament in Paxton, MA. And the opening round matchup with the Wildcats will present an opportunity for the Gators to show their continued growth from last season.

Last November, a narrow 76-75 overtime loss to Bay Path ended up being one of a handful of close defeats for the Gators, defeats that ultimately caused the program to fall short of a double-digit win season. However, last season’s nine wins were the most for the program since the 2005-2006 Gators went 11-13.

This season, a strong freshman class and the return of several impact players from last year have first year Head Coach Benjamin Akins expecting the Gators to compete in every game.

“We are always looking forward to the ‘next game’,” said Akins following the team’s final preseason tune-up, an intrasquad scrimmage open to the entire PMC community. “The next game is an opportunity to make a positive statement that will ultimately change the perception of our program, campus community and institution.”

If perception is reality, then PMC Basketball has been changing its perception over the last four seasons, two of which included Akins time on the bench as an assistant to Athletic Director John Griffith. The Gators have improved their win totals in each of the last four seasons and Akins expects this season to be no different.

“We believe each contest is a means of introducing ourselves to the world,” notes the head coach. For the Gators to gain increased notice, they will rely on several student-athletes who will be introducing themselves to collegiate basketball this season.  Akins anticipates that four freshmen will open the season in the Gators’ starting lineup-- a nod to the “unlimited growth potential” he sees in his roster.

Maria Vaughan (Okinawa, Japan), a heady point guard with a high basketball IQ will likely join Jayva Johnson (West Haven, Conn.), Shaneka Monroe (Jersey City, N.J.) and Ari DeJesus (Providence, R.I.) in the Gators starting five. Vaughan comes to the Gators from Kadena High School, located on Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, where she earned multiple honors competing in tournaments such as the Camp Foster and Yakota Christmas Classic.

Akins is notably excited about the upside of Johnson, Monroe and DeJesus. Johnson joins the Gators after a career at West Haven High School that saw her score over 1,000 points and earn a spot on the All-State team during her senior season. Monroe is “a versatile forward with guard skills and a huge upside.” However, DeJesus may have the highest ceiling of any of Akins’ first year players. “The sky is the limit for Ari,” said Akins. “She is gifted beyond measure, yet still has room for growth and improvement.”  

In all, the Gators will feature eight freshmen on the roster this season: Vaughan, Johnson, Monroe and DeJesus will be joined by Chaniyah Swan (Jersey City, N.J.), Susan Le (Lowell, MA), Tiana Jordan (Newton, MA) and Adrienne Mojica (Lowell, MA). Those eight freshmen make up half of a roster that also includes five sophomores, two juniors and no seniors.

 Likely to join the four freshmen in the starting lineup this weekend will be sophomore guard Alexis Lee (Akron, Ohio), the 2012-13 Great South Athletic Conference (GSAC) Freshman of the Year. Following a successful rookie campaign that saw her average 16.0 points per game, Lee will have the added responsibility of serving as the team’s captain this season. Akins is a firm believer in the ability of his second-year guard:

“My expectations for her are lofty as she goes into her sophomore season,” notes the head coach. “Her maturity and consistency on the court must translate into the ability to lead and inspire others… The challenge for Alexis is to raise her level of play this season, while at the same time maximizing the abilities of her teammates around her…this is a challenge I firmly believe she has accepted and will find ways to be successful in accomplishing.”

Sybil Lynch (Hoboken, N.J.), Lee’s backcourt partner from last season, will also return for the Gators. She was also named to the GSAC All-Freshman Team last season after averaging 14.0 points and 2.0 steals per game last season.

In addition, Natasia Franklin (Windsor, Conn.), the Gators leading scorer at 16.0 PPG and rebounder and 10.2 rebounds per game (RPG) and a GSAC All-Conference selection from a season ago will return to add to the Gators significant depth and athleticism. Franklin and sophomores Meagan Badohu (Boston, Mass.), 7.4 RPG, and Khyana Issac (Boston, Mass.), 5.7 RPG, will likely be relied on to bolster the Gators’ rebounding as PMC returns its top-three rebounders from a season ago.

A talented freshman class and an experienced, but young, upper class give Akins “a plethora of options” as he game plans throughout the season. “Our team motto for this season is ‘15-STRONG’ and I believe that is a fair assessment of where we are as a unit.”

Tip-off for Saturday’s Contest versus Bay Path at the 2013 AMCATS Classic Tip-Off Tournament is at 5:00 PM. The game will be followed by host Anna Maria vs. Yeshiva at 7:00 PM.  The tournament consolation game will take place at noon on Sunday followed by the championship game between the winners of Saturday’s games at 2:00 PM. Admission is FREE on both days.

Live Stats for all four games are available by visiting: http://livestats.annamaria.edu/xlive.htm  

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