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Thursday, November 17, 2016

Panther Women Set to Open 2016-17 Season in Maryland

By Scott Elliott

BRADFORD, Pa. - The Pitt-Bradford women’s basketball team opens the 2016-17 season Friday versus Rutgers-Camden in the first round of the Jim Crawley Tournament in Frostburg, Md.

It will be a homecoming for head coach Sean Brown Sr., who starred on the Frostburg St. men’s basketball team for three seasons and served as a Bobcat assistant for eight years prior to joining Pitt-Bradford.

“It will be weird sitting on the opposite side, but once the game starts, it’s basketball,” Brown said. “I had some great times as a student and coach at Frostburg St, but this is a business trip.”

Brown begins his second season at the helm after a successful inaugural campaign. The Panthers won 18 games last year and advanced to the AMCC championship match for the first time since 2009-10. The 18 wins are second-most all-time in program history.

Pitt-Bradford returns four starters from a year ago, including All-AMCC selections Ali Rinfrette and Kaserra Owens, and as a result, expectations are high once again. The Panthers were picked second in the AMCC preseason poll behind defending champion La Roche.

“Obviously, we took a big step forward last year as a program reaching the AMCC title game,” Brown said. “Minimally, we expect to get back and make a better run at La Roche.

We are well ahead of schedule now compared to this time last year, but we still have a ways to go to accomplish our goals.”

Rinfrette, a junior, lead the league in scoring in 2015-16 with 22 points a game and ranked sixth nationally in NCAA Division III, and Owens, a senior, averaged 11 points and nearly seven rebounds.

Seniors Brittany Watts and Darien Lantz are the other two returning starters. Watts started the final six games of the season last year, averaging 11 points and six rebounds during that span, and will anchor the Panthers’ front court. Lantz was fourth on the team in scoring with six points a game and second behind Rinfrette with 34 made threes.

Sophomore Anna Colbert will be tasked with replacing point guard Abby Brate, who averaged nearly six assists a game. Colbert has the pedigree; she posted five or more assists in six games last year.

Senior Casey Stringer, who started 22 games last season, will see extended minutes as Owens comes back from a knee injury, and sophomore Jennifer Isenberg will provide depth in the front court.

Newcomers Allison Guengerich, Shirleah Ragin and Lyric Collins will each add a different dynamic to the team. Guengerich is a skilled shooter, Ragin will improve the Panthers’ athleticism on the perimeter and Collins will add muscle inside.

Under Brown the Panthers will continue to play an up-tempo style of basketball. Pitt-Bradford averaged nearly 70 shots a game last year, including 25 attempted three-pointers, and ranked second to La Roche in the AMCC in scoring with 71 points a game.

Pitt-Bradford’s pace will be tested in its opening contest. Rutgers-Camden won 15 games a year ago and returns six of its top eight players. The Scarlet Raptors rely on the play of their interior players while the Panthers are guard-oriented.

“It will be a game of who can best control the tempo,” said Brown. “They like to slow it down and we like to speed things up, a classic battle of opposite styles.”

Brown expects a successful weekend in Maryland and has embraced the expectations around the program entering year two. The Panthers have all the pieces to make another run to the AMCC championship game. For this year’s team, it’s a matter of taking the next step.

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