By Shannon Russell
The Cincinnati Enquirer
University of Cincinnati coach Laurie Pirtle evaluated the women's basketball team a month before its first game and came up with a grim analysis.
"If you would have told me back in September and October that we'd be over .500, I'd have said 'I don't know,' " Pirtle said.
Five months later the Bearcats were 23-8, second in the Conference USA regular season and the C-USA Tournament, and had earned a second consecutive bid to the NCAA Tournament.
It will go down in history as one of Pirtle's favorite teams.
"I wouldn't trade this team for anything in the world," Pirtle said. "They're good kids, and they made Cincinnati proud."
UC hosted its first NCAA Tournament first and second ground games, and the 10th-seeded Bearcats had homecourt advantage against No. 7 Arkansas. The Lady Razorbacks outlasted UC for a 71-57 victory and the right to face Texas in today's second round game.
Pirtle and company said goodbye to several seniors, including K.B. Sharp, Carolyn Alexander, DeAnna Stevenson and Merelenea Dozier. Starting point guard Sharp and small forward Alexander will leave the biggest shoes to fill.
Freshman Micah Harvey has been groomed to take over for Sharp, UC's all-time assists leader (623). The Eastern Brown graduate averaged about 13 minutes a game.
Pirtle will look to her bench to replace Alexander and Stevenson. Freshman forward Miranda Smith (6-foot-1), who was red-shirted this season, and 6-4 freshman center Anne Stephens will be future impact players.
Center Debbie Merrill returns to the starting rotation, as well as guard Valerie King and forward Brittani Young.
Four new players have signed with UC: guards Treasure Humphries and Karen Twehues, and forwards Ashlee Stevens and Toni Slaughter.
Humphries, a senior at Canton McKinley, is a Division I All-Ohio selection averaging 24.4 points. Stevens (21.7 points) earned the same honor on the Division II level.
Slaughter's Shelby County team played in the Kentucky girls basketball state tournament Sweet Sixteen Thursday but lost to Pleasure Ridge Park 52-46.
Switzerland native Twehues played for Tipp City two years ago, and has played with Harvey on an AAU summer team.
Pirtle is optimistic about the team's depth next year, and expects all four signees to play. Her staff is still talking to prospects and the roster hasn't been finalized.
Pirtle's motto is "Leave it better than you found it," and she knows one way the team will improve its resume.
"We're going to box out next year," she said. "That's what cost us the (Arkansas) game."
UC's projected 2003-04 roster
|Player||Ht.||Yr||PPG||Hometown (High School/JC)|
|Treasure Humphries||5-7||Fr.||N/A||Canton, Ohio (Canton McKinley)|
|Ashlee Stevens||6-0||Fr.||N/A||Columbus, Ohio (Beechcroft)|
|Toni Slaughter||6-1||Fr.||N/A||Shelbyville, Ky. (Shelby City)|
|Karen Twehues||6-1||Fr.||N/A||Minusio, Switzerland (Tipp City)|
|Valerie King||5-10||Sr.||16.5||Wash. Court House, (Washington)|
|Leslie Knoch||5-6||So.||N/A||Whipple, Ohio (Fort Frye)|
|Debbie Merrill||6-3||Jr.||18.1||Cumberland City, Tenn. (Montgomery Central)|
|Sara Piepho||5-6||Jr.||0.2||Howell, Mich. (Howell)|
|Brittani Young||5-11||Sr.||3.9||Pickerington, Ohio (Pickerington)|
|Micah Harvey||5-7||So.||2.9||Sardinia, Ohio (Eastern Brown)|
|Meghan Hillman||6-1||So.||0.7||Olive Hill, Ky. (West Carter)|
|Miranda Smith||6-1||So.||N/A||Chesapeake, Va. (Indian River)|
|Anne Stephens||6-4||So.||2.3||Mineral Wells, W.Va.
|Edwina Williams||6-3||So.||1.0||Maple Heights, Ohio (Regina)|
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