Feb. 3, 2012
Trio of freshmen gaining experience
By David Boyce
As Northwest Missouri State women’s basketball team plays its last month of basketball, forward Annie Mathews is much like her freshman teammates. Mathews is gaining experience.
“The playing time we are getting is good experience,” she said. “It is not like in our junior year we will just get thrown in there. We are learning the change of pace from high school to college and getting used to it.”
While the results are not showing up in the won-lost column, strides are being made for a brighter future.
Evidence of it occurred Wednesday evening at Bearcat Arena. Northwest took on No. 10 ranked Northeastern (Okla.) State. The Bearcats nearly pulled off an upset, falling 58-55.
The loss dropped Northwest to 4-17. But the fact that it nearly beat a nationally ranked team showed the improvements the team has made.
Mathews, who entered Wednesday’s game averaging 4.5 points and 4.5 rebounds, scored 11 points and pulled down 7 rebounds against Northeastern State.
“As a freshman in a tough situation, she has played great. She is very positive in there,” Northwest coach Gene Steinmeyer said. “She tries to find her niche. She post up tough. She is trying to develop a little more range in there. She is a really good kid to have. She is a bright spot for the future.”
The Bearcats can again measure how far they have come this season when they play at Pittsburg State, 1:30 p.m. Saturday. On Dec. 7, the Bearcats lost 84-63 at home to the Gorillas.
Pittsburg State is 19-2 overall and in first place in the MIAA with a 13-1 record. If the Bearcats are competitive, they will show they can play with anybody in the conference.
Mathews, though, understands the building process. She said her first three seasons at Bellevue East in Bellevue, Neb., were OK.
In her senior season, Bellevue East won the Nebraska Class A state tournament, the largest class in Nebraska.
“It is hard to describe. It is an awesome feeling,” Mathews said. “We had a successful season all year long. We knew it was coming. We were confident we could do it. It was really fun, especially the previous three years we weren’t a really strong team. It was a nice gift my senior year.”
Mathews’ play and the word of her high school coach caught the attention of Steinmeyer. He saw her play three times in high school and about a half dozen times in the summer.
“Annie didn’t touch the ball a lot in high school, but when she did she was very efficient,” Steinmeyer said. “She was always doing the blue collar stuff and the work on the boards. She was always defending well inside.
“I knew at 5-11 she didn’t have the range you would like in the MIAA, but she had the toughness. That’s what I liked about her.
“Her high school coach really knows basketball. When he says Annie Mathews is a Division II player, I listened.”
Mathews liked what she saw when she visited Northwest.
“I really like the coaches and the players welcomed me here. I really loved the campus and I liked the small school aspect as well,” she said.
It was easy to feel at home at Northwest. Mathews is one of seven players from Nebraska.
Only recently, she realized she played against some of her teammates in AAU Tournaments.
Mathews looked at one photo and said, “That’s Maggie. She’s guarding me.”
Freshman center Maggie Marnin is actually from Stuart, Iowa. But two other freshmen - Ashleigh Nelson and Courtney Jensen - are from Nebraska.
“Nebraska put out quality players in the past, why not keep going there. I think Stein knows quality players come from there,” Mathews reasoned.
Mathews, Marnin and Nelson are all starting now. They have each had moments that show they will have a positive impact on the program in the upcoming years.
“Sometimes you got to know what the tough times are like to enjoy the good times. The good times are coming back here,” Steinmeyer said. “I know as a coach, I suffered through a couple of these. When you do have success, you do not take it for granted. You enjoy the moment and work hard to keep that moment.
“I hope they feel that way. They are going to have to work hard to get that winning moment back and then they have to work very hard to keep it.”
Steinmeyer is confident that Mathews has those qualities.
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