CBT's NCCAA Women's D2 Update - Teams to Watch in 2022-2023
The 2021-22 season ended with Pensacola Christian College defeating Arlington Baptist University in the NCCAA Division II Women’s Basketball National Championship game 85-74. Now, each team prepares for the next season and how they can become the 2023 title holder. Some have a better chance than others, but don’t forget about the teams that sleep under the radar.
Pensacola Christian College
The Pensacola Eagles won their first ever NCCAA Championship title last season, despite being in the tournament every year since 2014. Making the tournament for eight years straight and only coming out on top once may seem negative to some. But reality proves that the Eagles have been a powerhouse in the league and they will remain so when they tip-off the 2022-23 season.
Pensacola’s head coach, Jared Sellars, has been at the helm for 11 years and he’s built a program that knows a lot about winning. During his time as head coach, Sellars has an all-time record of 189-120. He has also earned three South Region Coach of the Year awards and two National Coach of the Year awards.
Although the team will lose Lauren Alvarez, the Eagles’ leading scorer last season, Leah Phelps will likely take over as Pensacola’s go-to player. As a junior she averaged 15.6 points per game (20th in the league) and 2.9 steals per game (seventh in the league).
With Sellars’ experience and Phelps’ growing skillset, The Pensacola Eagles have a chance at being back-to-back champions.
Arlington Baptist University
The runner-up in last season’s tournament have had their fair share of NCCAA titles. The Patriots won the tournament every year from 2015-2019. The past two seasons Arlington fell just a game short of adding another national title to their name. At this point, the question can’t be, “Will Arlington make it to the championship game?” It should be, “Who will they face?”
Last season the Patriots posted a record of 19-10 and finished at No. 2 in the league's rankings behind the leadership of their first-year head coach, Casey Fowler. A new coach came in and the winning atmosphere stayed.
A large part of the team’s success came from their sophomore guard Jakayla Bradford. Last season she led the team in points (16.8) and steals (3.3) per game. As Bradford continues to climb the league’s leaderboards, the Patriots will remain a championship contender.
Ozark Christian College
For the past three years the Ozark Ambassadors have been steadily improving. They had a record of 27-5 last season compared to their 17-15 record the year before. The team’s defense has led them to this elite level of play.
A large part of that has to do with their junior center Kamyrn Gentry. Last season Gentry averaged a double-double with 12.5 points per game and 16 rebounds per game. She also added 2.3 blocks per game (second in the league).
On the back of Gentry, the Ambassadors scored the fifth most points in the league and only allowed 57.8 points per game (second in the league) last season. Gentry’s game will only improve as she gets ready for her senior season and the Ambassadors will continue to benefit from her defensive presence.
Teams to watch:
Manhattan Christian College:
The women’s basketball team at Manhattan Christian College hasn’t had a winning record since the 2017-18 season when they went 20-6. Since then, the Thunder have a record of 26-58. Despite recent history, the combination of sophomores Roni Harris and Kayleigh Mannering will push Manhattan past their struggles and into a top team in the NCCAA.
Last season Harris averaged a very impressive 20.6 points per game (second in the league) as just a sophomore. She also contributed 3.4 steals per game (second in the league).
Mannering scored just under Harris with 19.2 points per game (fifth in the league), but she brings much more than her scoring ability to the team. She earned a spot in the top 25 for rebounds, field goal percentage, free throw percentage and assists. As these two grow into a superstar duo, struggles for the Thunder will slowly fade away.
Trinity Bible College
The Trinity Lions had an impressive 2021-22 season. They finished at 18-9 and earned the No. 7 seed in the NCCAA Tournament, but fell to Pensacola in the first round. The Lions didn’t make the final top 10 list, but they did receive two votes. Next season, more votes will surely go in their favor as sophomore forward Stacia West and head coach Rachael Nowell lead the way.
West provided a team best 15.6 points per game (22nd in the league). She also led in rebounds and blocks, contributing to the team allowing the fourth fewest points per game.
Nowell has been the coach at Trinity Bible College for nine years. In that time, she took the Lions to three NCCAA Tournament’s, earned three Region Coach of the Year awards and four Conference Coach of the Year awards. Before she started her coaching career at Trinity, she had a legendary career as a player for the Lions.
Nowell’s experience as a winner and West’s all-around talent give the Lions a shot at breaking the top 10 and another chance to compete for the national title.
The Barclay Bears finished with a 14-12 record last season and at No. 13 in the power ratings. The team’s youth and defensive strengths gives them a bright future.
Barclay only had one senior on their roster last season. Therefore, a majority of their key players will return for the 2022-23 season. That includes junior Jamia Jackson. She led her team in points with 17.5 per game (9th in league) and steals with 2.4 per game (25th in the league).
Jackson’s steals helped Barclay become a menace on the defensive side. They only allowed 52.8 points per game (third in the league). If the Bears keep their efforts intense on defense and improve their 17th ranked offense, they will be a problem for teams in the 2022-23 season.
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