Over the long hours spent this weekend at the BJC, you’ve probably found yourself taking in the scenery around the BJC much more than you might on a typical visit to the arena.
Located at the top of the rafters on the east side of the BJC, two banners hang to immortalize the memorable 2013-14 Penn State Lady Lions season, one for the women’s basketball Big Ten title and another commemorating the team’s run to the Sweet 16 round of the 2014 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament.
The Lady Lions have multiple other banners hanging next to the two in question, as the team actually won the conference championships in back-to-back-to-back seasons spanning from 2011-2014. The Nittany Lions also made the Sweet Sixteen in 2012, but the 2014 team was the last time that Penn State made the Big Dance for both of the basketball programs.
The 2014 season was particularly special because it was the senior campaign for Lady Lions’ legend Maggie Lucas. The three-time AP All-American won her second consecutive Big Ten Player of the Year award as she and head coach Coquese Washington led the team to a 24-8 record.
Lucas and three other seniors, Dara Taylor, Taylor East, and Ariel Edwards, spearheaded a tough core unit for the team, as they managed to go 3-5 against ranked teams over the course of the season, going 21-3 against unranked competition.
After earning the top seed for the conference tournament by winning the Big Ten regular season championship, the Lady Lions did stumble after their bye to Ohio State. The quarterfinal loss effectively killed any chances that Penn State had of being a two-seed in the NCAA Tournament, which meant that the Lady Lions would have a more difficult route if they were seriously going to make a deep run in the Big Dance.
The two NCAA Tournament wins over Wichita State and Florida were well-deserved for a team that went 76-21 with three conference championships over a three-year period. Penn State was eventually knocked off in the Sweet Sixteen by the Pac-12’s women’s hoops powerhouse, Stanford, 82-57 on Stanford’s home floor. Lucas was shut down, netting just six points an abysmal 3-for-14 shooting performance, but the Cardinals were no slouches. Stanford has made the Elite Eight round at the very least in eight of the last 11 years.
You’d hope that the program would build off of the success of three straight conference championships and a 5-3 record in the NCAA Tournament over that timeframe, but that was far from what happened. This truly was the culmination of the best group that has come through the women’s basketball program in sometime at Penn State, as the Lady Lions sputtered to a 6-24 season in the following 2014-15 season, an 18-game swing from the year before.
In the three-plus seasons since that run in the NCAA Tournament, Washington’s teams have struggled mightily, compiling a 54-66 record with just two regular season games left in the 2017-18 season. This year’s Lady Lions have been an average 15-12, but they possess one strength heading into next season that can’t be overlooked: Penn State has zero seniors on this year’s team.
That means the Lady Lions will be able to bring back a program legend in Teniya Page, in addition to budding stars like Amari Carter and Jaida Travascio-Green. The 2018-19 Lady Lions have the potential to reel off a run with five seniors on the roster, similar to that of the experienced team that navigated its way to the Sweet Sixteen four years ago.
Hopefully, the Lady Lions can return to the level of success that those banners represent some day soon. Until then, the huge, white flags and the memories are all we have.