Lady Blues basketball look to leap past Kangaroos again

Nathan Miller

The University of Missouri at Kansas City Kangaroos are hoping the third time is a charm. The Lady Blues, on the other hand, are hoping they have enough returning to carry on the tradition.

The four time MIAA defending champion Lady Blues have gotten the best of the Kangaroos the past two seasons, making Tuesday night’s match up between the Division II and Division I schools far from the stereotypical underdog looking to knock off the Division I giant.

“Division I programs, they have a tradition of playing really good basketball,” said Cindy Keeley, senior guard. “They have a lot of good athletes. We’re a good program and can be competitive with a lot of Division I schools. Obviously we have played the KUs – we beat them two years ago. We’ve played K-State, and now we’re playing UMKC. We’re a competitive team and we just want to come out there and prove ourselves.”

The MIAA coaches are asking for the Lady Blues to prove themselves. Despite being defending champs, the MIAA coaches voted Wednesday and the Lady Blues are No. 2 right behind MIAA nemesis Emporia State.

“Preseason ranking they’re there, but they are not the end of the season,” said Keeley. “You still have to come out and prove yourself every season. Every team is going to be competitive this year. A lot of teams have a lot returning and some good people coming in. It’s just a competitive league, so you have to come out ready for it.”

Part of that process getting ready for it comes Tuesday against the Kangaroos. The Kangaroos rocked Rockhurst 103-61 this past Thursday in their first exhibition game. The Kangaroos finished the 2005-2006 season 10-18.

“I think it’s an honor because Division I schools are not going to ask a really crappy Division II school to come play,” said Amanda Holmes, junior forward. “They want to play, because exhibition games are a really big part of their season also as far as getting ready.”

The Kangaroos are picked to finish fifth in their conference this year. But with a veteran squad the marsupials may be tougher than at first glance. Stephanie Brown, senior center, and Brittny Picconi, junior guard, were named preseason All-Conference selections.

“You are always looking to beat the bigger schools,” said Holmes. “For me, it’s like I don’t even look at what team we are playing. I hate to lose, I hate to lose more than anybody. Put me up against anybody and I’m going to play as hard as I can.”

That kind of attitude is exactly what Ron McHenry, Washburn head women’s basketball coach is looking for out of his team. The Lady Blues have the task of replacing Division II Player of the Year and top scorer Jennifer Harris while trying to intermix six newcomers.

“It’s been real different this year since we have so many new people,” said Keeley. “But it just takes some time to learn the basic parts of the offense, and there is a lot of it to learn. So you just got to come together as a team, stick through it with each other and just really work hard together.”

Harris averaged 24 points a game last season for the Lady Blues. Ultimately someone other than Harris and returning senior All-American forward Brooke Ubelaker, who already averaged 16 points a game, has to pick up the load. Keeley who only scored six points a game last year is up to the task.

“This season we don’t have [Harris] coming back, but we have a lot of players returning, a lot of threats we can use,” said Keeley. “I think I have to step up just because I’ve been here, I’ve been in the league, I kind of know what’s going on, I just have to step up and try to play my game and try to get a few more shots up if I’m open. But I’m still going to work to get Brooke the ball of course.”

Even Holmes, who didn’t start last year until now senior Megan Sullivan suffered an injury late in the season, is up to the task in her starting forward spot this year.

“Coach is looking for everyone to score a bit more this year, because we relied heavily on [Harris],” said Holmes. “He is looking for me to score a little bit more. I’m starting to take on more of a leadership role, since now I know what’s going on and can teach some of my teammates.”