Hoops Falls in Playoffs; Baxter Scores 1,500 points

By A.J. Martelli

Despite losing in the ECC quarterfinal playoff game, the lady Mavericks basketball team had a rewarding rebuilding season and is confident in its abilities for the upcoming years.

“I was satisfied with how the season played out,” said coach Ashlee Kelly, who recently completed her third year as the women’s basketball coach. “We won 10 games for the first time since 1996, and made the conference playoffs for the first time since 2001. We have a young team and a bright future.”

As the seventh seed in the East Coast Conference, the lady Mavs fell to Dowling on March 4 by a score of 73-61. With the ladies down 38-23 at the half, Kelly and the team remained cool under the heat of the moment.

“We had the feeling of ‘we’ve been here before.’ Dowling is a very good team, and in the locker room during halftime of that game, we still felt we could compete, and come back to win.”

The lady Mavericks did make a statement coming out of the half, cutting the lead to 45-40 with 13 minutes left on the clock. However, they lacked the extra push they needed, went on to be edged by their ECC rival, and were eliminated from the playoffs. Senior guard Christina Baxter led the game with 19 points scored and four assists, while sophomore forward Delmara Reece added nine points and four rebounds. Although taking the loss, Kelly sees competing in the post season as an achievement in itself.

“Making the playoffs was a victory for the girls and the program altogether,” she said. “With hard work, heart, and desire, we are turning things around.”

In 2006, Kelly inherited the basketball program, which owned a record of 2-75 the previous three seasons. Personally for Kelly, it was a good feeling to bring the squad back into a winning atmosphere.

“I discussed our prior seasons with the players, but we agreed not to talk so much about the past,” she said. “There is a lot of mutual respect that comes with our team. The girls work hard for me, and in turn, I work hard for them.”

In addition to the conscientious effort put in by the coaching staff, members of the team reached personal milestones this season. Baxter netted her 1,500th career point during the playoff game against Dowling, and gained All-ECC second team honors.

“I didn’t even realize I came to that milestone until I read it online!” Baxter exclaimed. “As for making the All-ECC second team, it is truly an honor. It feels great to know that others think highly of me.”

Along with being only the fourth player in Mercy College history to score 1,500 career points, Baxter also shattered the record for assists in the lady Mavs’ 82-64 win over NYIT on Feb. 28. With 12 assists in the game, Baxter set a new record of 534 for her career, passing the mark of 523 set by Joyce Lenoir.

“It was great to receive the game ball when I broke the assists record,” she stated.

With personal landmarks accomplished, Baxter also expressed her deep emotions, as this past season was her final go-round with the lady Mavericks.

“It was a great experience,” she said. “It was a pleasure to play for Coach Kelly, and our team has reached a new level of intensity. It was very emotional on senior day, and I cried and just let my emotions out.”

Along with Baxter, freshman guard Aimee Levine was named to the All-ECC rookie team. Overall, Kelly is proud of the individual accomplishments for both players.

“It is an honor for both of those young ladies,” stated Kelly. “To see them get those accolades is just great, and I am very proud of both of them.”

In comparison to last year, the team made a vast enhancement. According to Kelly, the direction the women’s basketball troop moved in this season had a lot to do with finally having home-court advantage.

“It is so wonderful to be back on campus,” she said. “Our gym may be small compared to some of the other schools, but we now have our own fans, our own court, and there is so much positive energy that comes with that.”

Prior to the inaugural season in the gym, the basketball games were played at the Westchester County Center in White Plains and Dobbs Ferry High School.

Looking to the future, Kelly sees bigger and better things for the team next year. With a youthful look and coming off a winning season, the lady Mavs will set new goals for the 2009-10 campaign.

“I am excited for the upcoming year,” Kelly said. “For right now, we are just going to rest and take it all in. On March 30, our team will sit down and discuss the goals for next year.”