Rattlerettes gear up to take MEAC championship

Seeded first in the conference with a record of 15-1, the Lady Bisons of Howard University are the team to beat in the 2002 Women’s Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Basketball Tournament.

Although the team holds a nearly perfect conference record, Cathy Parsons, Howard’s head coach, said they will be taking no team for granted. When asked what team she felt would offer the greatest competition for her squad, she had trouble choosing just one.

“I think Hampton is definitely a team that plays us extremely well,” Parsons said. “Bethune-Cookman was the only team to beat us. Other teams such as Coppin State and FAMU… basically everyone plays us well.”

The Lady Bisons lead the league in scoring, points allowed, defensive rebounding and field goal percentage.

Howard’s senior forward/center Andrea Gardener was recently named MEAC player of the year and is a member of the 2001-2002 All Conference Basketball Team.

“Andrea Gardener is our clutch player,” Parsons said.

Gardener leads the league in rebounding, averaging 11.4 rebounds a game and ranks third in scoring, averaging 15.8 points per game.

Shooting an average of 52.1 percent from the field, Gardener ranks second in the MEAC in field goal percentages. The Rattlerettes’ Kim Watson leads the league, shooting an average of 55 percent from the field.

Another team to watch for in the tournament will be the Hampton Lady Pirates. Sharing the second best conference record (12-4) with South Carolina State, the Lady Pirates lead the league in free throw shooting, force the most turnovers, and are second in steals. Hampton’s Lashondra Dixon leads the league in scoring. She averages 18.1 points per game. Dixon was also named to the women’s all MEAC team.

According to Walter Mebane, assistant coach of the Lady Pirates, Hampton has been working on execution and playing better basketball.

“I think we’re practicing well and you always hope to perform well,” Mebane said.

Mebane stressed the unpredictability of the tournament.

“Anybody could beat you on any given night,” Mebane said

Debra Clark, head coach of the Rattlerettes, also emphasized the fact that the tournament is designed for the teams who play the best during the tournament, regardless of their performance during the season.

“It’s going to boil down to whoever plays well next week,” Clark said in an interview last week.

The Rattlerettes (5-11) are third in the league in field goal shooting with a percentage of 38.3 and second in the league in shooting from outside the three-point arc (32.2 percent). Seeded ninth overall in the conference, the Rattlerettes average 59.6 points a game.

On the offensive side, FAMU will look to freshman guard Candace Crawford, who leads the league in 3-point shooting, Phaedra Mashburn, who leads the team in scoring and Watson.

Defensively, the Rattlerettes should turn to Shelcey Harp who leads the league in blocked shots, averaging 1.32 per game and Mashburn who pulls down almost 5 boards a game. Watson should also help on the defensive end of the court as long as she stays out of foul trouble.

The Rattlerettes are working on improving their overall game. “We have to work on consistency, rebounding, and turnovers-the problems that we have dealt with the entire season,” Clark said.

The MEAC Basketball tournament begins today in Richmond, Va. and continues through Friday. The Women’s Championship game is scheduled for Saturday at noon. The Rattlerettes take on the Hornets of Delaware State in the first round tournament tomorrow at 11 a.m.