Portsmouth, Ohio – Shawnee State athletics completed the 2016-17 competition season this past weekend. Throughout the course of the next three days, we will recap the year's accomplishments. Next up are the winter sports.
It was another outstanding season for the Shawnee State women's basketball program, with the team winning their second consecutive Mid-South Conference regular season championship and their third straight MSC Tournament championship. The Bears would go 31-3 and 13-1 in the conference to qualify for the NAIA Division I National Tournament for the sixth consecutive season since moving up to NAIA-I.
SSU would get the year started by winning their first 14 games, including victories over #17 Pikeville and (RV) Martin Methodist. The Bears would only lose two regular season games, falling against #18 Bethel (Tenn.) in overtime at the MSC-SSAC Challenge in December and to #4 Lindsey Wilson at home in January. However, Shawnee State would avenge their loss to Lindsey in the last week of the season, with the 89-73 win in Columbia, Kentucky ensuring the Bears a share of the conference championships and the first overall seed in the conference tournament.
In Frankfort for the MSC Tournament, Shawnee State would rout Life (Ga.) in the first round and use a late burst to take care of #22 Pikeville in round two. Facing Lindsey Wilson once again in the championship game, SSU would push out to a big lead in the third quarter before holding on in the final five minutes to edge out a six-point win.
Shawnee State would then get a number one overall seed in the NAIA Tournament, being ranked #3 in the final poll before the tournament. However, the Bears would see their season end with a heartbreaking loss to William Woods (Mo.) in the first round in Billings, Montana.
Multiple Shawnee State players would win awards, including Jonessa Moore (SR/Cincinnati, Ohio), who would be named a first team All-American. Madison Ridout (JR/Jackson, Ohio) was named to the second team, while Brandie Snow (FR/Hartville, Ohio) was an honorable mention. Ridout and Jen Arnzen (SR/Portsmouth, Ohio) were named Daktronics NAIA Scholar-Athletes for the academic achievements.
SSU won multiple conference awards as well, Moore, Ridout, and Snow all being named first team All-Mid-South Conference. Freshman point guard Bailey Cummins (FR/Brooksville, Kentucky) was named to the second team. Ridout was awarded the Randy Vernon Defensive Player of the Year Award, while Snow was named conference Freshman of the Year. Jeff Nickel earned the Mid-South Conference Coach of the Year Award. Jenna Brown (SO/Trenton, Ohio) would also get an individual award, being named the MSC Champions of Character award winner. Brown would also join Ridout, Jen Arnzen, Hannah Miller (SO/Coal Grove, Ohio), and Shania Massie (SO/Greenfield, Ohio) as MSC All-Academic award winners.
The 2016-17 season would also see Jeff Nickel reach an important milestone as he picked up his 100th victory against Cumberlands (Ky.) on January 26th. Nickel, in his fourth season, is the fastest coach to 100 wins in SSU history. The Bears have won at least 20 games in each of Nickel's four seasons at the helm.
Shawnee State men's basketball would see the end of an era as Jeff Hamilton would step down as head basketball coach at the end of the season to become the athletics director at Shawnee State full-time, while at the same time seeing SSU alumni Delano Thomas promoted to head coach at the end of the year. The Bears would go 9-19 on the year.
The highlight of the season for SSU's men was another upset win at home against a highly ranked Georgetown squad. After beating #1 Georgetown 91-71 last season, the Bears would hang around against the #3 Tigers this season before sealing a 78-72 win with late free throws to upset Georgetown for the second year in a row.
Frederick Moore (JR/Cincinnati, Ohio) earned Shawnee State's highest all-conference honor, being named second team All-Mid-South Conference. The junior from Cincinnati averaged 14.2 points and 7.4 rebounds per game this year. Portsmouth native Jayllen Carter (JR/Portsmouth, Ohio), another key contributor for the Bears this past season, earned a Mid-South Conference All-Academic award for his work in the classroom.
Indoor Track and Field
Eric Putnam's track and field squad participated in the first ever Mid-South Conference Championships this past season and sent runners to the NAIA National Championships this winter.
Anna Havranek (JR/Sugarcreek, Ohio) continued her stellar 2016-17 year by qualifying for the National Championships in the 5000-meter run. The junior from Sugarcreek, Ohio was the Mid-South champion in that event, logging a time of 18:30.99, a dominant minute and a half better than the next closest competitor. Megan Ashton (SR/Proctorville, OH) (SR/Proctorville, Ohio) would also show up big at the Mid-South Championships, winning both the 1000-meter run and the mile run. Alyssa Taylor (SO/Georgetown, OH) (SO/Georgetown, Ohio) was the champion of the 3000-meter run, and Shawnee State's 4x800 meter relay team would win a stunning final to take home gold in that event.
Havranek would be the only qualifier for the National Championships for the Shawnee State women. At the championships, Havranek was eliminated in the preliminaries, running a 17:58.43 in her heat.
The highlight for Shawnee State's men was the eight-man distance medley team that qualified for the National Championships. The team would finish 13th in their preliminary heat, logging a time of 10:22.38 but failing to qualify for the championship run.
SSU's men also had several runners win championships at the Mid-South Conference Meet. AJ Barber (JR/Galena, Ohio) would win gold in the 600-meter run, and Seth Farmer (SO/Waverly, Ohio) in the 800-meter and one-mile run.
In addition to all of Shawnee State's on-field success during the winter, SSU would welcome three new members to the Hall of Fame during Homecoming. Philip Butler (baseball), Mallory (Albers) Pleiman (women's basketball) and Corey Culbertson (cross country) were all inducted into the Hall of Fame for their outstanding achievements as student-athletes at Shawnee State.
Shawnee State would also use the winter to announce the addition of bowling to the athletics program. Bryan Sturgell, a Shawnee State alumni and Hall of Famer in golf, was named as the first head coach of the program, which will begin competition in the 2017-18 competition season.