Lane, Rachel take Lady Hawks the distance

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 30, 2001

Sports Writer

As a part of a large invasion of basketball talent from Pike County entering the Capitol City, Arleshia Lane and Amy Rachel have made a big splash on the Montgomery small college scene by excelling and reaching beyond their potential.

Lane, who is the all-time leading girls scorer at Goshen High School, along with former Pike Liberal Arts star Rachel have been responsible for helping build the Huntingdon women’s basketball program from scratch. Following the startup of the Lady Hawks program in 1998, Lane and Rachel went through lots of growing pains in the first two years as Huntingdon was trying to find its niche on the NAIA level.

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However, the hard work and perseverance of the Lady Hawks finally paid off in the 2000-2001 season as they reached the National Small College Athletic Association national championship game at Auburn, Maine last Friday night before losing

to The Apprentice School of Virginia 74-51. Despite the loss in the title game, the first ever postseason tournament appearance for the Huntingdon women’s basketball program was a big success.

In spite of owning a 10-10 regular season record, head coach Lisa Donaldson’s Lady Hawks earned an at-large bid to the six team NSCAA National Tournament on a points system based on strength of schedule, wins and losses. After having played several Division II and Division III schools during the regular season, Huntingdon earned the number five seed. The Lady Hawks, however, were forced to play on the first night (last Wednesday) while the top four seeds received byes.

The tournament had the feeling of a long regular season road trip for the Lady Hawks as three of the six teams playing were from the New England area.

However, the Lady Hawks didn’t feel any pressure as most of the local people at the tournament tabbed host school Southern Maine Tech as the favorite carrying a 44-game winning streak into the postseason. In the first game last Wednesday night, Huntingdon came from 16 points behind to defeat defending national champion Southern Virginia College 78-76. The key to the game was the Lady Hawk bench as they outscored Southern Virginia College 39-4 in the second half. Rachel scored 20 points, including four three pointers as the Lady Hawks hit several free throws down the stretch in the winning effort.

In the second game, the Lady Hawks knocked off host team Central Maine Tech by the same 78-76 score in overtime. The Hawks handed Central Maine Tech its first loss in nearly two seasons, snapping a 22-0 mark.

Rachel, who had never played March basketball throughout her 10-year career while averaging nine points per game this season as a senior, said playing in front of big crowds with everything at stake was a thrill of a lifetime.

"It was a great feeling because I have played for 10 years," Rachel said. "To find myself at a national tournament was an overwhelming feeling to put all of the hard work together. It’s something I’ll never forget."

After seeing the Lady Hawks lose several close games at the wire this season, Rachel said it was great for Huntingdon to break through at just the right time for its first ever postseason tournament win.

"All season we had this hill we had to overcome by not winning close games," Rachel said. "But this was a big step for us because we proved we could win (a close game). It felt like we won the title even though it was the first game."

The Lady Hawks fought more adversity in the opening round when Lane went down with a second degree sprained ankle causing her to miss the rest of the tournament. Despite the disappointment of not playing in one of the biggest games in her collegiate career, Lane said she supported her teammates on the bench.

"I was disappointed it came out that way, but I supported my teammates," Lane said. "I wasn’t used to sitting on the bench because I started every game. But you can learn about the mistakes we make, cheering the other girls and the teamwork that’s involved."

Lane, who averaged 16 points per game as a junior after only scoring five per contest in the ’00 season, said there were several reasons to her personal and team improvements this year.

"I made myself more aggressive and a better all around ball player by driving the ball to the basket,"

Lane said. "The team improved on working together, shooting the ball better and moving the ball up more quickly on the fast break. Most of the time we were a fast break team and we kept it up during the tournament. A lot of teams we played up there had a fast tempo, so we went along with it."

In the second win of the tournament against Central Maine Tech, Rachel said it was a great feeling to win on its home court in the extra period after nearly seeing a big lead slip away. A

blocked shot by LaTisha Trammell at the end of regulation kept the Hawks’ hopes alive.

"I think they took us for granted being on their home court," Rachel said. "Their crowd was very loud, but we used a lot of hustle and it came down to an overtime session. The overtime was a relief because we had five minutes to regroup. We stayed under control and protected the ball because we took good shots, plus we played great defense."

A Whitney Eaton layup with one minute remaining in overtime gave Huntingdon the lead for good.

In the championship game, Rachel said the Lady Hawks simply ran out of gas after three straight games without any rest. However, Rachel said it was an accomplishment just to get there.

"I think fatigue was a big part of it because we played two hard games without any rest," Rachel said. "It was exhausting knowing the feeling of making it to a championship game. It was something I’d never thought I would play in. It was a feeling of accomplishment."

After helping Goshen start its girls basketball program in the mid 1990s, Lane said the situation at Huntingdon is a lot alike.

"I see a lot of similarities," Lane said. "It takes a while to get the program started with new girls coming out. It’s getting better year by year. We’re a lot closer now."

Rachel, who will be graduating this spring, said she will miss Lane after developing a

close friendship with her over the past few years.

"Arleshia and I were roommates last year and we got to know each other pretty good," Rachel said. "I think our friendship is going to continue. She’ll definitely help Huntingdon next year. I’m glad I got to know her."

Lane, who is expected to be a two-year team captain next season, said getting to the championship game made all of the hard work pay off.

"We worked hard and we wanted to get to win the championship game," Lane said. "We didn’t win, but we were fortunate to get there. It will boost the confidence level of the program."