Sunday, March 9, 2003

Area players have Purdue in gear

College update: Boilermakers seek Final Four return

By Ryan Ernst
Cincinnati Enquirer

After being spectators to a Final Four, then participants in a premature tournament loss, two local products are prepared to become major contributors in a run at the national championship.

As juniors, Lebanon product Lindsey Hicks and Mason graduate Beth Jones have adjusted to their new roles as starters and helped the Purdue women's basketball team climb to a 24-5 record and a No. 12 national ranking. Now the question is whether the duo will help the Boilermakers back to postseason glory, like their runner-up finish in 2001, or to an early-round exit, as in 2002.

The 2001 team lost 68-66 to Notre Dame in the title game when All-American senior Katie Douglas' 18-footer at the buzzer fell short. Hicks played one minute in the game; Jones didn't play.

But Jones said being around players such as Douglas as a freshman helped shape her career at Purdue.

"We got to play under some really talented players that made us better and prepared us for our junior and senior years," she said. "It's really kind of interesting in the sense that our roles have been reversed since our freshmen year. Now we have that kind of leadership role."

In last year's tournament defeat, a 74-70 loss to seventh-seeded Old Dominion, the roommates played 20 minutes combined. Hicks said the loss was another learning experience.

"It was definitely a heavy blow to lose in the second round, especially coming off that great season," Hicks said. "But it was a huge motivation for us in the offseason. I remember seeing Mary Jo Noon, our only senior, and seeing her face after the game. I don't want to have to experience that."

Both agree experiencing things on the court and experiencing things from the bench are totally different, especially for high school stars.

"Transferring crossed my mind, and I'm sure it crossed Lindsey's, too," Jones said. "But we both came to Purdue for a reason: to win a national championship. I asked myself if I would have gone to a Final Four had I gone somewhere else. You look at those tough times when you're not playing, but it just prepares you for the role we're playing now and the chance to play for a national championship."

Hicks and Jones took the first steps toward the Final Four during the offseason, enduring 6 a.m. workouts around basketball trips abroad. Jones played in Spain with Athletes in Action. Hicks traveled to Belgium and Holland with a Big Ten all-star team.

After coming off the bench every game last season, the two entered 2002-03 in the starting lineup and have made the most of the opportunity, starting every game. Jones, a 5-foot-9 guard, is averaging 9.1 points a game. Hicks, a 6-1 forward, averages 7.5 points and 4.5 rebounds.

As tournament time rolls around, the two want to experience the Final Four again, this time from the court.

"Coming out of high school and getting that far in the tournament was awesome. I can't even put it into words," Hicks said. "It motivates you to get back there before you graduate."


• Ohio State junior golfer Kevin Hall (St. Rita School for the Deaf) paced the Buckeyes last week in the Cleveland Classic in Westlake Village, Calif. Hall finished tied for 13th at even par, including a hole-in-one on the par-3 204-yard 13th hole.

• Fenwick grad and Olivet Nazarene basketball player Andy McCormick was named to the All-Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference first team. He averages 10.3 points and 6.4 rebounds a game.

• Rachel Beecraft (Loveland) set two school records in indoor track and field this season at Capital. The sophomore long-jumped 15 feet, 81/2 inches and triple-jumped 35-053/4.

• Princeton product John Russell, a freshman at Akron, won the Mid-American Conference indoor track and field championship in the pole vault, when he cleared a conference-record height of 17-61/2.

• Mount St. Joseph women's basketball coach Melissia Patterson was honored as the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Coach of the Year. Patterson led the Lions to their first NCAA Tournament berth after their first HCAC Tournament championship. Players Virginia Grace (Colerain), Rebecca Petty and Tasha Reid (Hughes) were named to the all-conference team. Diana Grilliot was named to the all-freshman team.

• Tom Luther (Moeller) and Chris Washington (Withrow) represented the Mount St. Joseph men's team on the All-HCAC team.

• Aiken and Miami-Middletown product Paul McMillan, playing basketball at Loyola-Chicago, was named to the Horizon League all-newcomer team.

• Mercy alumna Siobhan Zerilla, now at Wilmington, is ninth in Division III in rebounding, averaging 13.1 a game.



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Mich. State 72, Ohio St. 58
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