Hope 09: Whodda thunk?

There are too many great stories from the 2008 – 2009 women’s Division III basketball season to summarize them all in one post. Doubtless there are many we never uncovered the past four months, despite our efforts. But the one that will define the year from a national perspective is George Fox’s incredible, undefeated run to the national championship.

By now, you’ve heard the story several times already. The Bruins graduated all five starters and added 10 first year players to a trio of juniors and senior Kristen Shielee whose play before this season was pretty non-descript. George Fox rumbled through the regular season but, in a year in which NWC observers said the conference was a little down, it was tough for some of us east coasters to determine exactly how good the Bruins were until the NCAA tournament began. Then they cruised by Chapman, rolled past Oglethorpe, handled Hope, took care of The College of New Jersey and withstood Washington U. in a run that touched most of Division III’s regions. And so George Fox becomes just the fifth program to win a Division III women’s national championship without a loss.

Given the make-up of the George Fox roster and their preseason placement (fifth in the NWC poll), the Bruins’ run was certainly unexpected. It’s even more unlikely if you consider where Kristen Shielee was entering the off season at this point last year. The quiet giant who anchored the stingy 2-3 zone defense and scored the biggest baskets of the year late in Saturday’s championship wasn’t even a lock to return for her senior season, as we learned in the retrospective posted below.

Other than returners Elise Kuenzi, BB Gardner and Lindsay Keener, the other contributors to the title team were also hidden in unknown places at this point last year. Sage Indendi, D3hoops.com Rookie of the Year, was playing high school ball in Livingston, Mont. and looking for a college home. She told us about her journey to Oregon and what she wants to do for an encore in the podcast below.

Is it too early to look ahead to next season since this one only ended a couple hours ago? If we do, we see a George Fox team that returns four starters, another exceptionally deep Hope team, and an Amherst squad with most of the big contributors back. And maybe somewhere out there, there’s a couple role players who are ready to take a much larger role, a couple high school seniors who haven’t even picked a college yet and a team that will have us scratching our heads with a smile on our face at this point next season.

More championship coverage:

Game story (Greg Chandler, MIAA)
D3hoops.com: Magicial run was not foretold
Holland (MI) Sentinel (Dan D’Addona): From cubs to champs – Young George Fox wins Division III national championship (with photo gallery)
Holland (MI) Sentinel (Alan Babbitt): Long, unlikely road for tournament MVP
The Oregonian (Lindsay Schnell): George Fox women win title, go undefeated
Photo gallery (The Oregonian)
St. Louis Post Dispatch (Alan Babbitt): Bears come up short in final
Holland (MI) Sentinel (Alan Babbitt): Hope defeated by best…again

More George Fox coverage:

D3hoops podcast: Rejector, Rookies, Rueck
Around the Nation: George Fox hunting again
Holland Sentinel (Alan Babbitt): Alaska family reels in some hoops

One thought on “Hope 09: Whodda thunk?

  1. Great interview and great reaction from Sage Indendi!

    “I didn’t want to play basketball for money,” she said. Priceless.

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