March 7, 2007
Atlanta – Winning conference record? Check. Twenty wins? Check. Historic upset? Check. Strong finish? Check. The Georgia Tech women’s basketball team has accomplished a lot, now all they need to complete their story-book season is an invitation to the 2007 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament.
The Yellow Jackets will spend Monday evening together in the team’s locker room for “Selection Monday” celebrating their monumental season and anxiously awaiting ESPN’s announcement of who will play in this year’s NCAA Tournament, where they will play and who they will face.
After finishing the season with 20 wins, nine in the Atlantic Coast Conference, including victories over the defending National Champion and fourth-ranked Terrapins and white hot NC State, Tech knows they deserve a spot in this year’s Dance.
“I think we are absolutely in,” said Tech head coach MaChelle Joseph. “Any team that’s 9-5 (in the ACC) … that would be a direct slam to our conference (to leave that team out). There’s no way that Georgia Tech is not an NCAA Tournament team.”
A year ago, the Jackets were done with their season. At 2-12 in conference, there was nothing to do but call it a season, hope for more and hit the weights. This year, the Jackets are seven wins better and anticipating the third NCAA Tournament bid in the program’s 32-year history. Rather than taking a week off then trudging through individual work outs, the Jackets took a two-day break after their ACC Tournament quarterfinals loss to Maryland, and returned to the court to prepare for the post-season.
The Jackets will enter the post-season as one of the ACC’s hottest teams, winning seven of their last 10 games, including the last five of the regular season. In Tech’s last four games, top scorers Stephanie Higgs and Janie Mitchell combined for three double-doubles and are averaging 34.5 points per game between them. For their efforts, Higgs earned third-team All-ACC honors and Mitchell was and All-ACC honorable mention.
“I think it all turned around for us when we, as a team, realized that we were beating ourselves,” said Tech Co-captain Janie Mitchell. “It wasn’t that these teams were beating us, we were letting them beat us.”
Mitchell watched her team from the bench for four games after suffering a Medial Collateral Ligament sprain in the Jan. 4 win over Winston-Salem State. Her team split without her, defeating Clemson and Miami but suffering bruising losses to second-ranked North Carolina and third-ranked Duke.
“My injury was a blessing in disguise,” said Mitchell who had never been injured in her career. “I could see from the sidelines how we were beating ourselves and what I could do to help us get better. I found a way to turn being hurt into a positive thing.”
Mitchell wasn’t the only Yellow Jacket to go down this season. Starting point guard Jill Ingram suffered a stress-fracture in her foot but only missed one game. The junior, who had started 47 games at the point, gave up her starting role, but played significant time while she nursed her painful foot injury and a nagging knee sprain. Senior Kentrina Wilson, Tech’s most versatile player, had her hand crushed under the wait of a Boston College forward on Jan. 25. Wilson’s hand was broken and she missed a game, only to realize that she didn’t want to miss any more. She played the final 10 games of the season with a broken right hand, her shooting hand.
“We just had this positive energy all around us,” said Co-captain Chioma Nnamaka of her team. “We were happier and kept each other positive. We all knew what our goal was, we stayed focused on that goal and, we’ve all worked together to reach that goal.”
The goal is a trip to the 2007 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament.