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What you Missed on the Last Season of Women’s Basketball

Updated: Mar 26, 2023

Mary Vickery

Contributing Writer

Photo from Willamette Athletics Website

Women's basketball ended their season on February 24th with a record of 14-12, a points-per-game average of 60.3 and a 51-37 loss to Whitman in the conference semifinals. Tournament qualification marks a steady improvement from last season, in which they earned a record of 12-13 and an average of 58.2 points per game. With several starters graduating, ((Sami Riggs (‘23) and Ashlyn Ascuena-Mercil (‘23)) Bearcat fans are left to wonder if the trend will continue.

Each of the starting five had glowing performances this year. Ashlyn Ascuena-Mercil (’23) led the team in rebounds with a total of 182, and Carolyn Ho (‘24) was the points leader with an average of 11.2 per game. Ho also earned a career-high of 12 rebounds against the Blues on Jan. 21. At the free throw line Sami Riggs shot 76.8%, Claire Bonnet (‘23) shot 20.8% at the three-point line, and Megan River (‘24) scored a career high of 23 points against Whitman on Jan. 21. Notable games included the 71-58 win against Montana Northern, and a 58-52 win against Whitworth which brought Willamette to the NWC Tournament.The Bearcats battled the Blues (who went on to win the conference tournament) three times, falling thrice.

Ashlyn Ascuena-Mercil recounts that the season went well, and that the NWC Tournament loss “was a good learning experience.” She went on: “The team really came together in that game… and we addressed a lot of the issues we had.” Both Sami Riggs and Ashlyn Ascuena-Mercil shared similar feelings about the season. Ascuena-Mercil notes that she is “one-hundred percent happy [with the season]”. Despite the loss, it was an ambition of the team’s to make it to the tournament, and to see that goal accomplished was fulfilling.

Riggs and Ascuena-Mercil both noted that the absence of starting post Ava Kitchin (‘24) led to an increase in difficulties for the team. Ascuena-Mercil notes that they “had to make a lot of adjustments with (their) offense, compared to last year.” Without Kitchin’s presence in the post, the team was forced to rely on a five-out system which did not always suit their needs. Riggs mentions that with Kitchin back as a big next season, the court will look different.

With ten players returning to the team, including Kaitlin Imai (’26), Carolyn Ho (’24), and Megan River (’24), there is much deliberation on who the starting five will be. To make things more indecipherable, new commits are incoming. Whoever does end up on the starting lineup (if the next season is anything like this one), will make Willamette proud.

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