Azusa Pacific women’s basketball team’s head coach T.J. Hardeman said after falling out of contention for the Pacific West Conference title, the team’s one remaining goal was to win the NCCAA championship. But the Cougars were stumped by Union in semifinals 56-36 Thursday, March 20 and finished the season with a 67-54 win over Roberts Wesleyan in the tournament’s game for third place Saturday, March 22. APU finished with a 21-9 record.
The season started questionably for the Cougars. Seven of 14 players on the roster were newcomers, raising concerns about how the team would jell and play together. But coach Hardeman said he thought this season was “tremendously successful.”
“Anytime you have to blend that many new players together and you have to get that many players on the same page that have previously been on different teams, it’s a chore to do for the coach, the players — for everybody, to learn a new system.” he said. “I thought the team did a great job of staying positive and working hard. We played a really tough schedule outside of our league, and our league is not easy, either.”
Three members of the team were named to the All-PacWest squad. Sophomore forward Kelly Hardeman and junior forward Sendy Valles earned first-team recognition while junior guard Allison Greene received second-team honors.
These three players along with freshman center Maggie Dumphy received NCCAA All-West Region nods as well. Hardeman and Valles received first-team honors while Greene received second-team honors and was named the West Region’s Newcomer of the Year. Dumphy was named the NCCAA West Region Freshman of the Year.
Hardeman played her second year as a Cougar and averaged 14.1 points and a team-high 7.9 rebounds per game. She was also second on the team in blocks with 30. According to Hardeman, the young team, with only two seniors, played well but had tough losses, like during its game against Union.
“We know we could have done better [against Union], but we just didn’t play well that game,” Hardeman said. “It was interesting to see because we were such a young team, so we saw a lot of our potential. Hopefully, we can capitalize on that next year and make it more steady.”
Against Union, Greene was the only player who scored in double digits with 13, and she also grabbed seven rebounds. The team shot 18.5 percent in the first half and 24.5 percent in the game. APU committed 15 turnovers compared with Union’s 11.
Greene averaged 14.6 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game in the 2013-2014 season. She says the way the season ended is motivation for the Cougars to come back strong in their 2014-15 edition.
“Overall, I think it was a solid building season for next year. We are continuing to develop team chemistry, and some games it looked really good. Other games it looked bad,” Greene said. “I thought everybody worked really hard all year, and I’m excited to see how next season goes.”
Aside from Azusa Pacific’s big three, role players made significant contributions. Junior guard Katie Powell was the most efficient three-point shooter on the team, shooting 41.2 percent from deep (35-for-85).
“For me, it’s nice to have Katie because she’s another shooter and I know she is a fantastic percentage — she doesn’t miss a lot,” Hardeman said. “To have her come in and start developing more confidence towards the end of the year, I think that will progress and she has a lot of potential to be a really solid player. She already is a solid player and … toward the end of the season, she hit a lot of key shots.”
Freshman center Maggie Dumphy shot a team-high 47.8 percent from the field and led the team in blocks with 55 on the year. She began the season on the bench, but worked her way into a starting spot as she made quick improvements. Coach Hardeman, Kelly Hardeman and Greene all raved about the vast improvements Dumphy made in her freshman season.
“It was awesome [seeing Maggie grow]. She is really athletic for her height and is a great shot blocker. It was fun playing with her, especially when she would get a huge block that would alter the momentum of the game,” Greene said. “Her offensive moves came a long way throughout season and she became a more consistent scorer for us. I think she has the potential to be a star.”
Each of the members on this team continue to improve. Coach Hardeman said what makes the team great is the large number of different players who contribute to each game.
“You don’t get worse when you sub, you get different,” he said. “We’re seeing some development in some other players who have been coming along and will definitely help us.”
Kelly Hardeman said her team members are always encouraging each other, which helps in overcoming obstacles.
“If [the other team] goes on a run, we’re able to fight back and encourage one another,” she said. “That’s hard with a new team because people don’t know each other, so hopefully next year, that will be more of a key focus: to be able to have each other’s backs no matter what happens. It will look more united.”
Next season will be the team’s first year of official NCAA eligibility. Coach Hardeman stressed the importance of working hard in the offseason in order to be ready for the season starting at game one.
“Now that we’re NCAA-eligible, what becomes very important is the games outside of your conference. We start off next year playing Cal Poly Pomona, Cal State Dominguez Hills, Seattle Pacific, Western Washington; all four of them are playoff teams, as we would have been,” coach Hardeman said. “Those are really important games, how we do against them. It’s important that we are ready to go from the get-go.”
Greene stressed a sense of urgency for the beginning of next season and also pointed to importance of training during offseason.
“We have a ton of things to work on, both individually and as a team,” Greene said. “We need to make sure we all come back in great shape. … I think we have a great chance to win a lot of games, and I am excited to see everybody’s hard work pay off.”