PORTSMOUTH – The Shawnee State Lady Bears found out Wednesday night they will be a two seed in the NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship. While attending a selection show party at Buffalo Wild Wings in Portsmouth, the Lady Bears, along with coach Jeff Nickel, and others involved with the team watched as Shawnee found out not only their seeding, but who they would play in the first round.
Nickel and the Bears will travel to Independence, Missouri to take on the Langston University (Oklahoma) Lions. The Bears and Lions will face-off in first round play on Wednesday, March 10th at 4:00 p.m. central time (5 eastern).
“We moved up from eighth to fifth in the poll, and were four votes away from a number one seed,” Nickel said. “So we’ll get the two seed and we’ll play Langston, and they have a really good team, and are really athletic.”
The Lions are coached by Cheryl Miller, who will be finishing her second season at Langston this year.
“She’s the sister of Reggie Miller, and she’s probably the greatest women’s basketball player of all time,” Nickel said. “They have a good team and do a lot of things really well. They’ll be a really tough first round match-up for us.”
Shawnee and Langston have yet to compete on the hardwood, but were seeded in the same bracket for last year’s national tournament.
“We got to see them play a few times,” Nickel said. “When we went to Louisiana this past November, around Thanksgiving, they were down there playing, so we got to see them first hand.”
Nickel believes his Bears will be ready for their first test in the national tournament.
“Right now, we obviously haven’t seen any film on them, but we’re not going to be able to give up easy things like offensive rebounds,” Nickel said. “We’re going to have to do a really good job on the boards, and our containment defense is going to have to be good.
“Any time you face an athletic team, you’re going to try to look for ways to take away easy baskets and easy possessions from them.”
Limiting the Lions on offensive rebounds will be a key factor for the Bears.
“All of those are going to be key for us,” Nickel said. “You’ve got to play defense, rebound, and you have to take care of the ball.”
Shawnee has a lot of momentum going into their first round game against Langston. The Bears finished as the Mid-South Conference (MSC) Regular Season Champions, and then went on to win the MSC Tournament.
“We’ve accomplished a lot this year, and I feel like we have a good group of girls,” Nickel said. “I feel like we’re in a position to make a run, but you know, the best team doesn’t always win the National Championship. It’s going to be the team that plays the best, so we’ll get a good scouting report together and we’ll focus on Langston.”
Ali Zieverink and Abby Feuchter will be essential for any Shawnee wins in the tournament. The two nicknamed “The Dynamic Duo” are senior leaders on the team, and close friends.
“We’re facing a tough team,” said Zieverink. “They’re good, but we’re good too, so we have to be focused this next week, and be ready for what lies ahead at the tournament.”
Zieverink was clear in stating nothing is a given at the national tournament.
“Anything can happen,” Zieverink said. “We really have to get our mindsets ready and go in and battle every single game, no matter if it is the first game or the last game, they’re all going to be a battle.”
“We have to understand we have to win every game to advance,” Feuchter added.
Both Zieverink and Feuchter know their team must come out with a good start in the first round game.
“It’s very important,” Feuchter said. “If you don’t start off good, they could just go off and get their confidence. They’re a seven-seed, but they’re still a good team. If they get confidence right off the bat, we could go down real quickly.”
Zieverink said building the confidence of the team will help those Bears who have never played in the national tournament.
“If you’re going into a national tournament game, and you have no idea what it’s like, and you get a quick start and you’re playing well, that builds confidence for you, and that will allow you to get more comfortable as each game progresses,” Zieverink said.
The Bears will enter Wednesday’s game with a 28-5 record, while the Lions will enter with a 20-7 record. The winner will advance to play on Friday afternoon.
Reach Michael Hamilton at 740-353-3101, ext 1931, or on Twitter @MikeHamilton82.