Young Cowgirls find their way

By By Albert Burford / American Press

McNeese State began its season with one glaring question— who would step up in the absence of Allison and Caitlyn Baggett?

The Cowgirls didn’t quite replicate the success of their three previous seasons with the Baggett sisters, but they were able

to find some answers to that question.

McNeese wrapped up its season with a 19-14 record, which was its lowest win total since the 2010-11 campaign, but the Cowgirls

managed their fourth consecutive postseason tournament appearance.

“This group accomplished so much,” said

head coach Brooks Donald Williams. “They accomplished much more than

anybody outside

of our team or program expected. We lost so much when we graduated

the twins. That really motivated the kids when they heard

so many people talk about it. ... They fell short of some of the

goals they expected and wanted to accomplish, but in the

same sense they did some really good things in a transitional

year.”

Allison Baggett picked up where her

sisters left off, leading McNeese with 17.9 points per game, good for

third in the Southland.

Inside, the Cowgirls relied on Cecilia Okoye for 12 points and 9.1 rebounds per game in her senior campaign.

Jayln Johnson also established herself

in the McNeese backcourt with 4.3 assists per game and a conference-best

2.0 assist-to-turnover

ratio.

“(Baggett and Johnson) had incredible

years, both of them,” Donald Williams said. “Allison did it as a go-to

scorer. She stepped

up and knew her role and accepted her role and night in and night

out, did it extremely well. Jayln stepped in and did some

big things as a point guard. She filled the shoes of Caitlyn

Baggett, wno is probably one of the best point guards I’ve ever

been around at any level. Jayln did that with a lot of confidence

and led this team and all the young kids and inexperience

in it.”

The Cowgirls had three seniors on this season’s team, though NeTanya Jones was the only one who had spent four years at McNeese.

McNeese will lose seniors Okoye, Jones and Arianna James, the team’s top three rebounders.

McNeese dealt with all the ups and downs that come as a result of youth during the season. Freshmen Victoria Rachal, Amber

Donnes and Haily Jenkins all averaged 14 minutes a game, while fellow freshman Hannah Cupit averaged nearly 10.

“All of them had such bright moments throughout the year, similar to Jayln and Allison,” Donald Williams said. “They all had

great opportunities and big minutes. That’s important for the future going into their sophomore season.”

McNeese won two games in the Southland

Conference tournament before falling in the semifinals to Stephen F.

Austin. The Cowgirls’

season ended with a first-round Women’s Basketball Invitational

loss at Northern Kentucky.

“Postseason experience, you just can’t

explain it,” Donald Williams said. “You can’t put a price on it. “It’s

something they’ll

take into next year and they understand what it means to go to

postseason play and they understand what the conference tournament

is all about.”