Seasoned veterans tend to make things easier, and with so much experience in its lineup, the Buffalo State women’s basketball program is enjoying a fine season.
The Bengals (18-5, 13-3) are ranked fourth in the NCAA East Region and are tied for first place in the SUNYAC due in large part to their five seniors.
“We have a lot of maturity and we’re pretty athletic,” Bengals coach Sue Roarke said. “Having as many seniors as we do has definitely helped this year.”
The Bengals are one of several local small college teams who have shined while the season winds down.
In Division III men’s basketball, Hilbert (19-4, 13-3) leads the Allegany Mountain Collegiate Conference while Medialle (12-11, 11-5) is in sole possession of third place. But it’s been a struggle for last place D’Youville (1-23, 1-16) which has dropped its last 11 straight and whose lone victory came against Pitt-Greensburg at home on Jan. 11.
The Medialle women are tied for first place with LaRoche in the AMCC, while D’Youville (11-13, 9-8) is in sixth place and Hilbert (4-19, 2-14) is tied for last place with Penn State-Behrend.
The first round of the AMCC Tournament begins Wednesday.
In the SUNYAC, the Bengals men (11-12, 7-9) are in seventh place.
In the junior college ranks, the Erie Community College men are 15-9 overall and 6-4 in the Western New York Athletic Conference, while the women are 12-12 overall and 4-3 in league play. Both teams at Niagara County Community College are enjoying successful campaigns. The men are ranked seventh nationally in the Division II poll at 21-5 and 5-4 in WNYAC play, while the women are 24-3 overall and 5-1 in conference play.
Coming into the season, Roarke was optimistic about her team, especially with the return of senior guard Staci McElroy, a first-team All-SUNYAC selection as a sophomore and junior, who didn’t play last season for personal reasons. McElroy is averaging 13.5 points and 1.1 steals a game.
“Staci is pretty athletic and sometimes has the size over who’s defending her,” Roarke said. “She’s athletic enough that she can elevate over most kids, so if we can get her in a mismatch down low, she can jump over people.”
Second-leading scorer Bianca Smiley (Sweet Home), who played at Medialle as a freshman, recently went over 1,000 points for her career in just three seasons. Ashley Wallace (Starpoint), Kala Crawford and Olivia Luciani round out the starting lineup. Seniors Mary Cain (Niagara Catholic) and Kelly Kell, junior Hillary Kollar and sophomore Mariah Norris provide depth for a bench that extends nine deep.
The Bengals travel to Potsdam at 6 p.m. tonight, and the SUNYAC title could come down to Saturday’s road game at Plattsburgh, who is also 13-5.
“It’s the last game of the regular season to see who holds onto first kind of thing,” Roarke said. “But for us, it’s all about defense. If we defend well, it helps us get out and run more. That makes us go.”