McNeese State senior guard Ashlyn Baggett. (American Press)
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 6:44 PM
It’s not the NCAA tournament, but it is better than nothing at all.
That’s the attitude the McNeese Cowgirls are taking to Macon, Ga., where they will face Mercer in the first round of the Women’s Basketball Invitational tonight.
“There’s only three tournaments in the postseason,” said guard Ashlyn Baggett. “For us to be in one of them is such an honor, even if it’s not the NCAA tournament like we were hoping all season. We’re still getting to play while many other teams are going home.”
The 16-team tournament will serve as the official last hurrah for Ashlyn and twin Caitlyn, who respectively rank second and third in scoring in program history.
“It’s always good to have a second chance,” Caitlyn said. “Especially to try and win another championship.”
McNeese (18-14) didn’t know if it would make the tournament field until Monday night, making for an agonizing wait after Friday’s elimination in the Southland Conference semifinals.
“It is horrible (waiting). I don’t know if I’ve ever worried more about anything in this program than I had the past several days (waiting on a bid),” said McNeese coach Brooks Donald Williams. “I just wanted this team to be able to play again. In the moment there is nothing you can do to help your chances. Your résumé is already built. You just play the waiting game, and it’s extremely stressful.”
With no mutual opponents, neither team has much to go with in terms of scouting.
The Bears (20-11) are making their first postseason appearance of any sort since 1985, led by all-conference players Precious Bridges (17.1 ppg) and Kendra Grant (12.6 ppg).
Based on the game footage she has seen, Donald Williams said Mercer is reminiscent of Southland rival Stephen F. Austin.
“They are very athletic,” Donald Williams said. “They penetrate and get to the rim. It’s going to be tough to play on their home court.”
If the Cowgirls win, they will play the winner of Eastern Kentucky-Elon in the second round on Sunday.