Tomorrow first-year head coach Jamelle Elliott will have her first senior day here in Clifton. Prior to their 2:00 p.m. tip-off versus Pittsburgh, the Bearcats will honor four seniors, all of whom have experienced different paths throughout their tenures in Clifton.
Before I get into my thoughts on the seniors, here are some tidbits for tomorrow's regular season home finale. This is a crucial game. Both the Bearcats and the Panthers are 4-10 in the BIG EAST. The winner takes a game advantage over the loser and really has a 2-game advantage thanks to the tie-breaker. Right now the Bearcats sit in 14th place, two games behind Syracuse (9th) and UC owns the tie-breaker with the Orange. One game ahead of the 'Cats is Marquette the team Cincinnati plays Monday on the road.
Best case scenario? The Bearcats win both, a couple of things fall their way and the red and black head to Hartford as the 9-seed, playing either Villanova or Seton Hall in the first-round.
Worst case scenario? The Bearcats lose both, nothing falls their way and UC heads to Hartford as the 15-seed, with a very winnable first-round game.
By late Monday night all of this will have some clarity, in the meantime, my thoughts on the four seniors to be honored tomorrow:
Shelly Bellman - sadly, Shelly's career at UC has been cut short. When I arrived in Clifton four years ago, Shelly was an eager sophomore, fresh off a successful freshman campaign who had a very bright future at UC. After a solid sophomore season, Shelly tore her ACL prior to her junior season. She returned a year later, worked her way through a painful season, only to see it cut short with an additional knee injury. After 2+ years of rehab, Shelly's career has been cut short well of what she could have accomplished. If ever there was a time appropriate for a player to suit up and make one more basket, that would be the case for #22.
Michelle Jones - MJ, along with Shelly arrived in 2005 as part of Laurie Pirtle's decorated recruiting class that also included Kahla Roudebush, Jill Stephens & Angel Morgan. Michelle worked her way into the line-up early in her career and began to establish herself as a successful post player in the BIG EAST. After sitting out a season, Michelle returned as a junior, but had a hard time re-establishing herself in the Bearcats rotation. Now, as a senior, Michelle is the Bearcats only option at center and has stepped up to the task. She is playing more minutes than ever before and helped the 'Cats to crucial conference road wins at Syracuse and Louisville.
Kahla Roudebush - Kahla is the one player among the four I knew the least about early in my tenure here at UC. My first season calling games Kahla played only the season opener and then received a medical redshirt due to a shoulder injury. When she returned to the court for her sophomore season, I had no idea what to expect. 1200 points later, Kahla has helped UC to countless victories, solidified herself in the Bearcats record books and proved to be a constant for the red and black during two coaching changes. She should end her career as the 10th all-time scorer in Bearcats history. Not bad for a country girl from Noblesville, Indiana.
Stephanie Stevens - not many college athletes play for three head coaches in four years, don't see as many minutes as they may like and handle it with the class and positive attitude that Steph did the last four years. A back-up guard her entire career, Steph has always been a player respected by her teammates. She is always ready to answer the bell and often is the hardest working Bearcat in practice. Thanks to Steph, I will always remember the 2007-08 season finale at Providence. The Bearcats had nothing on the line and starting point guard Carla Jacobs sprained her ankle early in the game. Steph was called on and answered with 17 points in 24 minutes, helping the 'Cats to a season ending win over the Friars.
If you can make it out to Fifth Third Arena tomorrow, I suggest you do and that you come early. All four of these young ladies deserve a nice round of applause. Afterwards, cheer for the Bearcats as they try and win a crucial game with the Panthers. If you can't make it, you can watch live here: UC vs. Pitt - 2 p.m.
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