When times get tough, stick it out

More news about: Pitt-Bradford
Alicia Kimmel nearly gave up basketball. But not only is she still playing, she wants to go on to become a coach.
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Alicia Kimmel almost slammed the door shut on college basketball, set to walk away from Pitt-Bradford and not look back.

That was during her freshman year when the Panthers were struggling, when they finished the season 11-15, 9-9 in the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference.

“I almost stopped playing,” Kimmel said. “I was ready to transfer to a bigger school and just get my degree.”

Fate has a funny way of working things out and Kimmel’s mind changed when a new coach came on board. Patrick Daniel was hired to take the helm of the Panthers prior to the start of the 2012-13 season.

Kimmel actually helped pick the new coach. She was the only student-athlete on the selection committee.

“My mind changed about leaving once I met him,” Kimmel said. “He has a lot of passion for the game and loves being a coach. It’s great playing for him. I’m definitely glad I stayed.”

Kimmel has thrived with the Panthers, who entered the week at 14-6, 11-3. The junior forward led the team in scoring as a sophomore (16.5 points per game) and junior (14.1) and is the Panthers’ leading scorer again this year, clicking for 15.8 points per outing. She also averages 6.6 rebounds per game and has tallied 34 assists and 32 steals.

Kimmel will more than likely be an All-AMCC selection for the third consecutive season. She was a first-team pick as a sophomore and a second-team selection last year.

Added confidence has fueled her success. So has experience.

“I’m playing like a senior should play and I’m doing my best to be a leader,” Kimmel said. “Coach talked to me before the season about just playing my game and not feeling any pressure. So far, it’s worked out pretty well.”

Kimmel is one of only two seniors on the roster. Her value to the Panthers doesn’t come with a price tag.

“She is a great leader on and off the court,” Daniel said. “She plays with passion, with effort and is having a great year. That is a credit to the work she has put in to make herself a better player.”

Kimmel’s story goes beyond statistics, beyond big shots and beyond all-conference accolades.

She is a student-athlete who loves giving back to the community. Kimmel has spent time doing activities such as painting and karaoke with senior citizens, she has done work with the Salvation Army and has participated in bowling events for Special Olympics.

In December, she was named one of 93 finalists across the country for the 2015 Allstate Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Good Works Team.

Kimmel is honored to be recognized for her efforts, but she doesn’t do it for the attention. She does it because it adds to her all-around experience as a Division III student-athlete.

One of her most enjoyable ways to give back is a basketball clinic the Panthers do for special needs children each year.

“It’s organized chaos,” Kimmel said with a laugh. “We have so much fun and the kids love it. At the end of it, we take a picture with them. It’s a neat thing to be a part of.”

Another neat experience is on the horizon for Kimmel this spring at the NCAA Division I Women’s Final Four in Tampa. Kimmel was one of 50 players selected to be a part of the WBCA’s “So You Want To Be A Coach” program.

Kimmel admits she never thought about being a coach until Daniel came around. He served as her inspiration and she hopes to one day be a college coach.

“Coach Daniel asked me if I was interested in applying for the program,” Kimmel said. “I never thought I would be selected. I was completely shocked. It’s going to be an awesome experience.”

For now, the focus is on the season. Daniel is looking forward to seeing what his team can accomplish.

“We’ve had a good year and have really gelled as a team,” Daniel said. “We have some big games left and have to focus on us. We have to be ready to play our game.”

Kimmel is thankful she never slammed the door shut on basketball three years ago because it’s opened up so many other doors in her life.

“Things have gone even better than expected,” Kimmel said. “I’m happy here and I’ve had a great time playing. I’ve also met friends that I will have for the rest of my life.”

No place like home

John Carroll’s men’s basketball team remained unbeaten on its home floor after grinding out a 65-63 win over Capital on Saturday.

The Blue Streaks have won all seven of their home games this year and are 15-5 overall and 11-3 in the Ohio Athletic Conference.

The latest win wasn’t easy as the Blue Streaks were held to their lowest point total of the season. David Linane led the way with 13 points, seven assists, four rebounds and three steals as JCU won its second consecutive game.

Linane ranks second on the team in scoring, averaging 11.1 ppg, and Saturday marked the fourth time he has either led or tied for the team lead in scoring. Linane has also tallied 102 assists and 41 steals. Both totals are the best on the team.

Sykes shines for Royals

Shakeerah Sykes rose to the occasion once again for Eastern Mennonite, and in the process, became the latest player in school history to get to the 1,000-point milestone.

Sykes scored on a putback with 12:41 to play in Saturday’s 78-63 win over Randolph to get to become only the 12th player in program history to score 1,000 career points. She finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Alisa Brown scored only four points but dished out 10 assists on a day when the former high school teammates played their 100th game together at EMU.

The Royals improved to 17-3 overall and 11-1 in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference. They also won their 28th consecutive game at home as they remained in first place in the league.

EMU has won six in a row overall and Sykes has helped pave the way for the Royals’ success. She is averaging 15.4 points per outing.

Memorable day

Senior day was one to remember at Centre, which won its fifth consecutive game on Sunday with a 70-41 victory over Hendrix.

Josh Karsner and Mike Geegan were honored before the game and scored eight and five points, respectively, for the Colonels, who improved to 16-4 overall and 7-3 in the Southern Athletic Association. A total of 12 players scored for Centre, which is one game out of first in the SAA.

Tyler Wesley led the Colonels with 17 points and 13 rebounds. Wesley, who also blocked three shots, is only a freshman and is averaging 8.0 points and 7.8 rebounds per game.

Puckett power

Mackenzie Puckett came through with a double-double to lead Maryville to a 62-41 win over LaGrange on Saturday in USA South Athletic Conference action.

Puckett was stellar as she scored 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. She also dished out three assists, tallied two steals and blocked two shots as the Scotts improved to 19-2 overall and 11-1 in the conference.

Not only has Puckett gotten the job done on game day --- she averages 13.1 ppg --- she has thrived in the classroom as well. The junior guard was named to the Capital One Academic All-District team.

Making history

Texas Lutheran’s men’s basketball team is having a season to remember.

The Bulldogs won their fourth consecutive game Saturday, beating Trinity 81-67 to secure their first winning season since the 2004-05.

The Bulldogs are 14-8 overall and in first place in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference with a 9-2 record. This season marks the first time since 2003-04 that Texas Lutheran has won at least 14 games.

Texas Lutheran led 48-30 at halftime against the reigning league champions and rolled behind a double-double by Donte McGee. McGee scored 21 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. McGee also dished out two assists and blocked one shot.

McGee is averaging 10.4 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. He has dished out 20 assists and has blocked 17 shots for a Bulldogs team that won only nine games last year.

Close call

Millsaps had an opportunity to remain in first place in the Southern Athletic Association, but a 60-54 loss to Berry on Sunday left the Majors tied with the Vikings atop the standings.

The Majors and Vikings are both 16-5 overall and 8-2 in the conference standings. Millsaps has lost its last two games and has four games remaining on its schedule in the regular season.

Velvet Johnson finished with 17 points for Millsaps and leads the Majors in scoring at 15.1 points per game. Johnson has scored in double figures 14 times this season.

Brian Lester

Brian Lester is a reporter in Findlay, Ohio. He has 14 years of experience at newspapers in Virginia, North Carolina and Ohio, spending the last 10 at The Courier in Findlay. The highlight of his career was covering the University of Findlay men's basketball team's perfect 36-0 run to an NCAA Division II national championship in 2009. During his career, has covered all three levels of the NCAA tourney and has done freelance work for newspapers and web sites. He is a graduate of Eastern Illinois and lives in Ottawa with his wife and daughter.