USF seniors prepare for one final run
After all of their tears were shed in the locker room under the stands of the arena they’ve called home for four years, five seniors emerged from their locker room to put on one last show for their home crowd.
Guards Courtney Williams, Shalethia Stringfield, Micah Kroll and Laura Marcos Canedo along with forward Alisia Jenkins did just that in a 76-62 senior day win over Temple Saturday afternoon.
The winningest class in USF women’s basketball history — 93 wins — left its final mark in front of an announced crowd of 2,446 that displayed neon signs thanking the seniors. Chants of their names echoed through the Sun Dome as the moment began to sink in.
“It was very emotional,” Williams said following the game. “We were so excited to play in front of all our family and friends, and then to have our student section and the regulars come out, it was amazing. It was great, honestly; it was great.”
But this moment meant more to Williams than just her final home game.
Shortly after the final buzzer, Williams dedicated the victory to her late cousin.
“This one’s for Martina,” she said, pointing to her more than 40 family members in attendance.
Williams didn’t need to put on her typical shooting spectacle against the Owls — she is one of two women at USF (21-7, 14-3) to eclipse the 2,000-point mark. She scored only 13 points on 5-of-14 shooting, but tied a career high with eight assists. She didn’t care how the team won as long as they got the job done.
“It was a great team effort,” said Williams, whose team secured the No. 2 seed in the AAC tournament. “We just all really wanted it because we won’t get this opportunity again.”
The big three — Williams, Stringfield and Jenkins — combined for 51 of the team’s points against Temple. Stringfield led the team in scoring, Williams in assists and Jenkins on the glass. Each showed up in their own way, proving how versatile the team has become.
“I want to be more than just that scorer,” Williams said. “I want to be able to do other things. I want people to look at me and say, ‘she’s an overall player.’”
USF’s versatility was showcased early in the second half when Jenkins — a primarily dominant post-player and rebounder — knocked down two open 3-pointers to silence a 7-0 Temple run and regain a lead they never relinquished.
Williams was forced to sit for much of the fourth quarter with four fouls, but with the game in hand and three minutes left on the clock, she re-entered to a deafening roar from the crowd.
The 2016 class will most likely leave USF with three NCAA tournament berths and a WNIT semifinal appearance. No class has accomplished more, but for them, the season’s not over.
“When you’re a senior and your career is coming to an end, there are not many more opportunities that you’re going to have to play,” Fernandez said. “You want to finish your career with no regrets and leave it all on the floor.”