Women's basketball returns all but one for 2012-13.
March 21, 2012
By Andrew Gilman | SoonerSports.com
NORMAN, Okla. -- The St. John's players celebrated on the court at the Lloyd Noble Center as the Oklahoma players huddled one last time in a bit of a stunned silence.
The 2012 season came to an end Tuesday night with the Sooners walking off the court, waving to their fans one last time. There will be no trip to the Sweet 16 for the first time in four seasons.
But there will be next year.
OU's season ended at 21-13 with a 74-70 loss in the second round of the NCAA tournament to the Red Storm, but it would be hard to think the Sooners won't make it back at least this far a year from now.
Oklahoma will welcome back the bulk of the team in 2012-13, including two players -- Jasmine Hartman and and Lyndsey Cloman who were injured this season.
Every player but senior Jelena Cerina returns, and that's something the Sooners and coach Sherri Coale can look forward to as the starting lineup this year will head into next year with a combined 22 starts in the NCAA tournament.
"I'm really proud of our team," Coale said. "They have battled and proven a lot of people wrong time and time again. It was challenge after challenge after challenge. Nothing was easy. The young guys have grown and gotten better, and we got them all them back. We get the two who were injured and a couple freshmen coming in. Good times ahead."
Real good. The strength of the team once again will be guard play with leading scorers Whitney Hand and Aaryn Ellenberg back as well as point guard Morgan Hook. All three averaged more than 10 points per game this season.
Meanwhile, post players Kaylon Williams and Nicole Griffin came on as the season progressed. The two combined for 17 points and nine rebounds against St. John's Tuesday.
"It's encouraging for our years to come," Hand said.
And the years to come start soon, Coale said.
"We'll rest for us a couple days, and they will all have lengthy homework assignments," she said of her players and their preparation for next season.
After Tuesday's game ended, the Sooners sat in front of their lockers. Some looked like they had been crying. Hand smiled when asked about next year.
"I don't think we start that for awhile," she said about thinking about next season. "It takes about a week to feel real again. It's just different not going to practice or getting ready for the next game. But we are excited and our goals won't change at all. We have a lot of people coming back. It's exciting, but you don't think about that now.
"For now, you're glad about this year."