After a season of adversity, the Belmont women’s basketball team is heading to Evansville, Indiana to chase their fifth consecutive Ohio Valley Conference Tournament title.
The Bruins have spent the last four years as the dominant figure in the OVC, and although they did secure a fifth straight regular season title, this will be the first time in three years that they won’t compete as the number one seed.
The last time the Bruins were a two seed in 2015, however, they won their first OVC title. At the time, UT Martin held the number one seed, which is exactly reflected in this year’s bracket.
“Every single season has a life of its own; things have been a little different but we’re confident no matter what seed we are,” said Senior and Evansville native Maura Muensterman.
They are set to play their first tournament game on Wednesday two against seven seeded Austin Peay Governors, who they have beaten twice this season.
Without Bruin home court advantage, the Governors kept it close to the last second until Ellie Harmeyer put up two right before the buzzer. The second game in the Curb produced much different results as the Bruins handed the Governors an over 20 point loss.
For three seniors, this will be the last tournament run they will ever make. Ellie Harmeyer, Maura Muensterman and Maddie Wright have all lead this team through the adversity that has made the Bruins who they are this season.
Harmeyer has been the most consistent piece for this team. She is the only player in the country to be averaging over 18 points and 11 boards a game. Over their eight game winning streak, however, she has been playing her best basketball yet, averaging 21 points and 15 boards heading into the tournament.
Both Wright and Muensterman have been improving their game as well. Earlier in the season they were more available for clutch plays, but they have recently been contributing more consistently by putting up double figures in the last few weeks.
This season for the Bruins has consisted of ups and downs, but coach Bart Brooks is more than content with his team after the major progress that has been made, brought to them in part by senior leadership.
“Our seniors have been the pillar of the program; our seniors are the captains, and they’ve steered the ship all season through the good and bad,” said Brooks. “We’ve been in the middle of a storm for a lot of the season and they are directly responsible for pulling us out of that storm and into a place of confidence for our team heading into the tournament.”
The overall production of this team has improved just over the last couple of weeks. Both their shooting percentages and depth of their bench have done nothing but made a positive impact considering they went on an eight game win streak ahead of the tournament.
The area they needed the most improvement, their bench has especially been a factor towards their success. The first half of the season the bench’s contributions were almost non-existent, specifically less than 10 points per game. Now, when they need it the most, the bench is exploding for 20 points per game.
Although this has been a much different Belmont team than seen in the most recent years, Brooks couldn’t be happier to stand by this group of women through anything that is thrown their way.
“There’s not another team in America that I would rather be coaching, no doubt, no matter what happens.”
Article written by Julieann Challcombe.