This year will be the Lady Statesmen’s 26th appearances in the conference tournament. Out of the previous 25 appearances, the Lady Statesmen (18-8) have won the GSC 15 times with five runner-up finishes. DSU went to the semifinals of the conference tournament last season and made a trip to the NCAA Division II South Region Tournament.
The Lady Statesmen will be entering this tournament, which will be held in Birmingham, Ala. at the Pete Hanna Center on the campus Samford University, as a No. 1 seed. Delta State will begin action on Thursday when the team plays eighth seeded West Florida (6-20) in the first game of the tournament at 12 p.m.
This game won’t be an easy one as DSU split its two game series with UWF during the regular season. Delta State lost to West Florida 66-51 at Pensacola, Fla. on Jan. 24 but won the second meeting at the Walter Sillers Coliseum 65-53 on Thursday.
Midlick, whose Lady Statesmen have won 10 of their last 13 games, said he likes where the team is at right now.
“They’ve worked hard,” Midlick said after their game against West Florida last week. “I’ve been impressed that when we have lost a game, we’ve bounced back. The next game after they’ve come focused. At this part of the year, we have an opportunity to win some stuff and do some good things. They shouldn’t need a whole lot of motivation, and I think they realize what’s in front of them.”
Delta State has had to battled a little adversity as junior guard and preseason All-GSC selection Brooke Rhodes quit the team a couple of weeks ago.
Midlick said the girls have continued to remain focused on the business at hand.
“They’ve continued to work hard and do the same stuff,” Midlick said. “Someone else gets an opportunity to step up.”
The Lady Statesmen have a young team as point guard Brittany Roberts is the only senior on the roster. Roberts has been a solid veteran leader down the stretch. Roberts, who is averaging 6.3 points per game, has produced a lot of her scoring lately as she has scored 29 points over her last two games, an average of 14.5 points a contest. Roberts scored 14 points against West Florida on Thursday and 15 points against Valdosta State on Saturday, which were her two highest point totals of the year. She is also averaging 2.4 assists per game and is shooting a solid 71.7 percent from the free throw line.
Roberts, who is in her second year at DSU, said making a big playoff run her last year would be sweet.
“With this being my last year of basketball period, it would be huge,” Roberts said. “I’m all for it, and I want to go as far as possible.”
Another player that has really led the way for Delta State is sophomore center Seneca Walton. Walton currently leads the team in scoring (13.6 ppg.), rebounding (8 rpg.), blocked shots (47) and field goal percentage (.502). Freshman guard Chelsey Rhodes (12.1 ppg., .393 3-point field goal percentage) and sophomore forward Rhandi Ball (10.6 ppg., 7.3 rpg.) have also done a great job. Rhodes has been particularly good at the free throw line by shooting 79.8 percent (71-of-89).
DSU’s offense has been good as a whole as the team is second in the GSC in scoring (65.5 ppg.) and second in field goal percentage (.410). On defense, DSU is currently ranked second in the conference in scoring defense (55.4 ppg.).
As of last week, the Lady Statesmen were third in the South Region rankings behind Nova Southeastern (No. 1) and Tuskegee (No. 2). The team seeded No. 1 will get the chance to host the South Region Tournament, which will begin on Mar. 16. The winner of the GSC Tournament will get an automatic bid to the region tournament.
The Lady Statesmen haven’t won the GSC since 2009 and haven’t hosted a region tournament since 2009.
Roberts said the team would love to have that South Region Tournament in Cleveland.
“We know that we have to win out in order to host regionals and that’s what we’re shooting for,” Roberts said. “We have to bring it each night and every practice.”
The GSC Tournament will conclude on Sunday with the championship game set for 1:30 p.m.