Sunday, January 26, 2003

UC-Clermont making slow but steady progress


A year after going winless, Cougars are 2-9

By Ryan Ernst
The Cincinnati Enquirer

UC-Clermont women's basketball coach Mike Matthews stood in the Milford Junior High School gym Thursday night and looked at his watch.

It was 9:15 p.m. - 15 minutes into his team's two-hour practice, and not one of his eight players was present.

"I've only had two call, so we should have six," Matthews said.

His team has to practice in a junior high gym late at night. Some evenings, Matthews doesn't have enough players to run an offense. His team's record stands at 2-9 this season.

It all could be worse.

Last year, in the program's inaugural season, the Cougars were 0-10. Their average loss was 79-47.

"That was frustrating," Matthews said. "We had that same level of non-commitment, but on top of that, they didn't understand the game at all."

This year is different.

Among the Cougars' new players are Liz Flammer, a guard who started on McNicholas' 2001 state championship team, and Goshen's Kelley Phillips, last year's Fort Ancient Valley Conference Player of the Year.

The results were immediate for UC-Clermont - kind of. The Cougars got a forfeit win in their opener because their opponent, OU-Chillicothe, was not going to field a team in the first half of the season. Later, however, OU-Chillicothe decided not to field a team at all, and UC-Clermont's first-ever win was negated by the Ohio Regional Campus Conference.

Even when they won, the Cougars lost.

That is until they toppled OU-Lancaster 53-45 in their third game of the season.

Then, after a pair of close losses, UC-Clermont took on last season's league champ, Miami-Middletown, a team that beat the Cougars 77-28 last season.

And it was a blowout. The final score was 86-25. But it wasn't Matthews' team that came out on the losing end. Perhaps a sign of things to come?

Not so fast, said Matthews.

"We played well, Matthews said, "but they (Miami-Middletown) just happened to graduate a core group of seniors."

Although the Cougars haven't won a game since then, it's clearly not last year. And if Matthews has anything to say about it, next season won't be anything like this one.

"We don't offer scholarships and we don't have a nice facility to practice or play in," he said. "But we're trying to get our name out and go to the schools and offer some alternatives."

Finally, players began to walk through the gym doors and shoot around.

"It's a start," Matthews said.

Others

Ohio State senior forward Courtney Coleman, a Hughes alumna, leads the nation in field goal percentage. The

6-foot-2 co-captain has made 111 of 149 shots (74.5 percent).

Miami junior guard Chet Mason was named Mid-American Conference player of the week, averaging 19.5 points in a pair of RedHawks victories.

Mercy grad Bridget Flanagan, a senior guard at Northern Kentucky, won Great Lakes Valley Conference player of the week honors. She averaged 25.5 points in two Norse road wins.

E-mail rernst@enquirer.com




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