Top-Seeded Oakland Too Strong for Ladies
Saturday, March 3, 2007

Files associated with this release:
CC-Oakland Box Score 3-3-07

Cierra Bush

Holli Wilkins

Jelena Aleksic

TULSA, Okla.—The Centenary women’s basketball team did not fare well in its Mid-Continent Conference Tournament debut on Saturday at the John Q. Hammons arena at the UMAC. The eighth-seeded Ladies dropped their opening round contest to the top-seeded Oakland Golden Grizzlies 82-51.


Playing in its first-ever Mid-Continent Conference Tournament, the Centenary Ladies (4-26) looked timid in the first several minutes of the contest with the regular season champion Oakland Golden Grizzlies (18-11). Oakland scored the first six points of the game quickly and Centenary coach Steve Curtis promptly called a timeout to regroup his team.


The Ladies got on the board following the timeout on a pair of free throws by Cierra Bush. However, the Golden Grizzlies forced several turnovers and converted them into easy transition buckets en route to a 14-0 run and a 20-2 advantage. After a three-pointer from Bush, Oakland sprinted out to an 11-0 run that left Centenary trailing 31-5 with nine minutes left to play in the half.


The Golden Grizzlies led 48-21 at the half behind 53.8 percent shooting compared to 26.1 percent for the Ladies. Oakland turned 13 Centenary turnovers into 17 points and dominated in the paint 18-2.


Bush, a second team All-Mid-Con selection as a sophomore, was the lone bright spot for the Ladies as she had 10 points at the break. The 48 points by Oakland was the most Centenary had allowed in a half this season.


“I was a little worried that we would come out tentative,” said Curtis. “We were in a daze a little bit in the first half because it was our first time here. I just felt like our nerves really got to us.”


Bush continued her strong play to begin the second half, scoring seven quick points. Two free throws by Jasmine Bothwell brought the score to 68-42 with eight minutes to play, but Oakland would get a three-point play the old fashioned way by Nicole Piggott to end the Centenary run. Bethany Joseph hit a three-pointer with seven minutes to go to bring the contest to 24 points at 71-47, but the Ladies would not gain ground the rest of the way despite only being out-scored 34-30 in the second half.


The duo of Piggott and Melissa Jeltema gave the Centenary frontline problems throughout the game. The pair combined for 40 points with Piggott accounting for 24 of the points and Jeltema providing the other 16.


Bush led all Centenary scorers with 17 points in the loss. She was the only Ladies player to reach double figures. Seniors Holli Wilkins and Jelena Aleksic finished their careers after four years in a maroon and white uniform with a combined five points, all from Aleksic.  


Oakland’s Beckie Francis, the Mid-Continent Conference Coach of the Year, gave credit to Centenary for its effort despite being down early. “I thought that Centenary fought hard, but that our players just came out and wanted it,” said Francis after the game.


For the game, the Ladies shot 26.7 percent from the floor and were out-rebounded 51-28. Centenary committed 20 turnovers while Oakland mishandled the ball nine times.


“The effort was not bad, but the execution was the difference in the ballgame,” said Coach Curtis. “We didn’t do the things we needed to do from an offensive or defensive standpoint.”


The Golden Grizzlies shot 44.3 percent from the field after cooling off to shoot 32.3 percent in the second half. Oakland will advance to the quarterfinals on Monday against the winner of the Western Illinois and IUPUI match-up on Sunday.