Still room on the Chico State women’s hoops bandwagon

Wildcats on plane


There is still time to hop on board the Chico State Women’s Basketball bandwagon. Don’t get left behind because this is a fun journey the ladies are taking us on.

The Wildcats currently sit at 16-2 with a glowing 12-2 CCAA mark. The Chico State program has had resounding success over the last decade, but no team may have surpassed expectations like this 2012-2013 team has. Chico State is coming off of a laborious road trip that took them to Arcata to play Humboldt State, only to turn around two days later and play perennial power Cal Poly Pomona. Chico was able to win both of these tough road contests in decisive fashion. Now, they tackle the perils of the road once again as they travel to San Francisco State and Sonoma State this week.

This Chico State team may be the most fun Wildcat bunch since the 2006 team ventured all the way to the Elite Eight in Arkansas and eventually the Final Four. This group is fun, determined, tenacious and has that WILL TO WIN that great teams possess.

The Wildcats are led by their junior point guard Courtney Hamilton. The stat page does not adequately equate her true value to the club. Her ability to push tempo keeps the Wildcats playing at a frenetic pace that more times than not propels them to great things. In her first few years she needed to be urged to “push the ball” up the court. That, is no longer a problem for Brian Fogel’s floor general. No doubt Courtney makes them go. She is averaging 6 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists a game. But her value isn’t in the numbers, its in her never-ceasing ball pressure that we have seen eventually wear opponents down (i.e. Western Washington) causing turnovers and mistakes. Her ball pressure forces mistakes which eventually lead to Chico State lay-ups.

Jazmine Miller is her back-court mate. The junior guard recently went through a bit of a shooting funk, hitting only two-three pointers in a five game stretch. But, over her last three games she has hit 12-of 14 trifectas, including an amazing 5-for-5 performance in a win over Cal State East Bay. She is Chico’s leading scorer not because she can only hit three’s. Her penchant for getting out on the break and taking the ball to the bucket gets her to the free throw line where she is money. When she gets her feet set from distance….look out.

Monnie Davidson-Mays is the perfect tweener for this team. It doesn’t matter what position you ask Mays to play. She can play them all. She is prolific in the open court, and her ability to run the floor, pass and score make her special. She is having a tremendous senior campaign. Her versatility makes her a match-up nightmare for opponents. Her consistency this season has been a big reason why the Cats are sitting atop the CCAA.

McKenzie Dalthorp is the third-year post from Oregon and the Wildcats love having her patrolling the middle. Dalthorp brings a rugged toughness in the paint to Chico. Never shying away from contact, Dalthorp patrols the paint and makes other posts work hard on both ends.  When Dalthorp is on her game she is scoring and causing frustrated posts to take bad shots. Her value is immeasurable.

After tearing her ACL in a playoff game against Humboldt last March, Synchro Bull is back to dazzling us all in the open court. The spring is back in her legs after Fogel brought her along slowly and she is now hitting on all cylinders. Bull has an ability to get to the rim and create her own shot. Quite commodity in the rough and tumble CCAA. Several times in her Chico State career she has been the great bail-out when plays break down. Bull is truly an X-factor.

Division I players can come to Division II programs and either make you better, or they can bring everyone down because they carry themselves with an air of  “why am I here?” Hannah Womack DOES NOT fit into the latter category.  A fun, intense and physical player Womack has shown her propensity to gravitate toward contact. She is a fearless player who has been described by teammates as “chippy,” and they love it. Opponents get annoyed with Womack easily, because she won’t leave them alone. She constantly hounds them and makes their lives difficult. Getting an extra shot in for good measure, and then looking around and saying “Who me ?” This sophomore guard had her best game of the season at Pomona scoring 19 points and taking the fight to the Broncos early in that game.

Chico’s Analise Riezebos is another player that is having a great sophomore season. Riezebos tore her ACL in the spring of 2011 and had to red-shirt last year. She has come back and given the Cats quite a presence off the bench. Averaging 6.5 points and more than 7 rebounds a game, this club relies on Riezebos to play defense and grab rebounds. They don’t necessarily just want that out of Riezebos, they NEED it out of her. Along with Dalthorp they are the only two-bigs on the roster and their presence in the paint prevents teams from constantly attacking the middle of the lane. Riezebos just gets better and better and she could be a dominant player in the CCAA for years to come.

Samantha Messersmith is another versatile piece for the Cats. Whether Fogel puts her in the paint to spell Riezebos and Dalthorp, or whether he wants her energy and intensity off the bench, Messersmith has brought it. Her signature line-drive three point shots have been finding the bottom of the net more often than not. She is another senior whose consistency this year is a big reason why the Wildcats are winning. Fogel knows what he is getting when Sam gets on the court, and this year its been a big boost.

Sophomore guard Annie Ward is knocking them down from the cheap seats again. After going through a mid-season shooting slump, Ward has found her stroke and back to hitting three’s. Her presence on the floor is critical when the Wildcats go to their bench. Ward’s shooting ability forces defenses to spread out, therefore opening lanes for the Cats quick guards. She brings balance to this team. Opponents can’t sag off of her for fear she will hit her high arching three point tries. When she is confident, she is among the best shooters in the CCAA. With Ward back on track, things open up for the Cats. If Ward ever gets confident in taking the ball to the basket and working on her intermediary game, she could average double-digits in this conference.

Sharon Washington is a luxury that not many teams have. She has the talent to start on many teams in this conference, but instead, she fills that back-up role for the Cats when the starting back-court needs a breather. Fogel said her ability to run the break in practice is natural for her, and we have seen it in games when she is given extended minutes. Her key role can not be over-looked as she gives the Wildcats depth and ensures the Wildcats have someone who can direct traffic if the starters falter. She can shoot it from the perimeter, and the best thing, not many teams know it.

When you consider highly touted recruit, Ashtyn Anderson tore her ACL in Chico’s third game….the Wildcats are set now and into the future. Her rehab has begun and she will be vital to the Wildcat’s future success. But, the time is now for this team. Gone are thoughts that this season might be a pre-cursor to great things next year. The time is now for THIS team.

There are still several impediments to this Chico State 2012-2013 season. They have a pay-back game against UC San Diego on the horizon at Acker Gym and then what figures to be an incredible match-up in Seaside with Cal State Monterey Bay in the final weekend of the year. The Wildcats have had an incredible run of success over the years, with conference titles, CCAA tournament titles and trips to the Elite Eight. Now, with eight games left in the regular season, Chico has their basketball fate in their own hands……just how they would want it.

Hop on board, this team is fun to watch !


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