Patience pays off for Austin's Gowdy

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Gowdy's breakout season has helped fuel the Kangaroos' improvement.
Photo by Joe Fusco,

It was always about being patient for Katie Gowdy. A high school basketball star in Texas, the senior guard at Austin had to learn a lot about patience when she arrived on campus as a freshman eager to make her mark.

"The biggest adjustment for me when I got to Austin was learning to be patient," Gowdy said. "In high school, I never came out of a game and was averaging around 16 points per game. You want to be able to step in and play right away in college but my coach kept telling me to be patient and my time would come. Looking back now, I see why my coach did what she did."

The patience no doubt paid off. Gowdy has seen her playing time increase over the course of her career and she is now a key contributor for a Kangaroos team having a stellar turnaround season.

Austin won only 11 games last year. It is 18-7 this year, including an 11-3 mark in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference, and finished in a first-place tie with Trinity for the title.

The Kangaroos, winners of seven consecutive games -- the longest win streak in the league -- head into the conference tourney this weekend as the No. 2 seed.

Not bad for a team picked to finish fourth in the preseason.

"It's been really nice, especially with this being my senior year," Gowdy said. "We've enjoyed being the underdog and are having a lot of fun proving people wrong."

Gowdy has done her part to help the Kangaroos stun the doubters. The 5-6 guard is averaging 8.2 points per game, nearly six points better than her average as a junior (2.6), and she has stepped up as a viable 3-point threat, knocking down 28 shots from beyond the arc.

She made only six treys her first three seasons at Austin and scored only 93 points in that stretch.

"I've developed a lot more as a player because I'm getting more playing time," Gowdy said. "I've also gotten the green light to shoot more and I'm making better decisions on the floor because I have the experience of being a senior. It's been a great season so far."

As good of a shooter as she has become, Gowdy has been equally impressive on the defensive end of the floor, racking up 30 steals after tallying just 17 steals in her first three years combined.

"I've always been more of a defensive-minded player," Gowdy said. "I'm naturally quick and have improved a lot with my footwork. I've noticed that when I do well on defense, I tend to be more successful on offense."

Speaking of the offense, balance has been an integral part of the Kangaroos' success. Austin features seven players who average at least 5 points per outing, with Bryce Frank paving the way (11.2). Kendall Heitmeier ranks second in scoring (10.5) on an Austin team that is putting up nearly 70 points per game (68.5) while allowing just over 60 (62.0).

Gowdy is a perfect example of how balanced the Kangaroos are this year. In Sunday's regular-season finale against Rust, Gowdy led the way with 16 points. She also grabbed eight rebounds and dished out two assists.

"We've had a lot of different players step up and we are a more balanced team this year," Gowdy said. "We were more guard-oriented last year, but this year, if teams try to take away our outside shooters, we have post players who produce. It's been a big key to our success."

Gowdy is thankful for the experience of getting to play college basketball at Austin. She loves the fact that her college life isn't all about athletics.

"It's not my whole life," Gowdy said. "The great thing about Division III is a lot of focus is put on academics. I get a great education and still get to play the game I love."

Gowdy is hopeful the season won't end anytime soon. The Kangaroos open SCAC play Saturday when they take on either Schreiner or Centenary.

"We're really confident going into the tournament and are excited about the opportunity in front of us," Gowdy said. "We're hoping we can make a run."

Hornets close regular season on high note

Lynchburg nailed down a huge 80-75 win over Virginia Wesleyan Saturday to claim a share of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference title and clinch the No. 1 seed for the conference tournament.

The Hornets improved to 19-6, tying the record for most wins in program history. They end the regular season at 12-4 in conference play.

Alex Graves paved the way against the Marlins, pouring in 23 points as the Hornets won their third consecutive game.

The victory comes on the heels of a wild 160-156 double overtime win against Roanoke Feb. 17. Lynchburg broke the school and ODAC record for most points in a game and the 316 combined point total is the highest in NCAA Division III history.

Austen Arnold lit up the scoreboard for 41 points, the fourth-best total in program history.

Lynchburg is averaging just over 80 points (80.8) points per outing and has lost only three games since the calendar flipped to 2016.

Obach lighting it up for Tyler

Michelle Obach broke her own program record for points in a game Saturday as she helped Texas-Tyler take down Texas Dallas 88-69 to complete a perfect run through the American Southwest Conference. The win was the 19th by double digits this season.

Obach poured in 38 points, fueling the performance on the strength of six 3-pointers. She has knocked down 57 3-pointers in all this year, making six or more four times, and is averaging 17.4 points per outing. Obach has made an impact in other ways as well, dishing out nearly 100 assists and coming up with almost 60 steals (58).

Tyler is 24-1 overall and 15-0 in the conference, marking the first time in program history it has made it through the conference schedule without a loss.

Obach has played a huge role in the team's success and is one of the top 3-point shooting threats in program history, having knocked down 93 treys in her career. That total ranks sixth on the all-time list.

Southwestern on a roll

It appears Southwestern has picked the right time to play its best basketball. The Pirates wrapped up the regular season Saturday with a thrilling 83-81 overtime win over Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference leader Texas Lutheran.

The win was the fifth in a row for Southwestern, which took the lead for good on a layup by Zachary Whitlock with 1:47 remaining in the extra session. The Pirates head into the conference tournament with a 13-12 overall record. They finished conference play with a 10-4 record.

Whitlock finished with 23 points in the win, connecting on nine of his 11 shots from the field. He nearly had a double-double as he grabbed eight rebounds. Whitlock has led the team in scoring in the last three games and is averaging 14.8 points per outing.

Ryan Ogden did record a double-double, though, as he scored 11 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. He is the Pirates' leading scorer, putting up 17.9 points per game.

Southwestern won only three of its first 10 games this season but has played much better basketball. The Pirates went through the month of February without a loss.

Spirits repeat as champs

Salem secured its second consecutive Great South Athletic Conference championship Saturday with a 66-60 win over Agnes Scott.

The Spirits, who are just 7-16 overall, completed a perfect run through the conference slate, winning all four of their GSAC games.

Quntashea Lewis helped lead the way as she recorded a double-double, scoring 20 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.

Mikayla Selvers and Sabrina Shepherd also stepped up in the win, pouring in 13 and 12 points, respectively. Selvers also dished out six assists and racked up three steals as Salem won its second consecutive game.

Salem went through a stretch earlier this year where it dropped nine out of 10. But it has played much better in the month of February and has won four of its last five games.

Lewis has played a pivotal role to the Spirits' success, averaging 20.1 points and 13.2 rebounds per game. She has scored 20 or more points in six consecutive games and has scored in double figures in all but one game this season.

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Brian Lester

Brian Lester is a reporter in Florida. He has 15 years of experience at newspapers in Virginia, North Carolina and Ohio, spending 10 at The Courier in Findlay, Ohio. Lester also writes an Around the Region column for and wrote the book Perfect Run as No. 1 about the 2009 Division II men's basketball champions University of Findlay. He is a graduate of Eastern Illinois.