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NEO Women's Basketball Season Preview - KOAM TV 7

NEO Women's Basketball Season Preview

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MIAMI — Starting the 2017-18 women’s basketball season with an equal blend of experience and youth, the four-time defending women’s Oklahoma Collegiate Athletic Conference champions Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College Lady Norse play eight of their first 11 games on the road.

“With this group I feel like we’ll still be there at the end and battling,” NEO head coach Jim Rowland said. “But, they are going to have to mature as a group.

“Every one of our players like to work hard and have put in a lot of effort during the preseason,” Rowland said. “With the way our non-conference games are arranged and the way our conference is set up, we’ll know pretty quick how much maturity we’re putting on the floor game after game.

“When we get on the road we want our kids, especially the freshmen, to understand that it’s mental sometimes,” Rowland said. “They need to know that it’s not always because you’re talented that you win on the road, but how you deal with the crowds and other issues because they are not used to traveling great distances.”

While capturing their fourth consecutive OCAC title last year with a 15-1 mark, the Lady Norse went on to defeat Redlands College 86-59 in the Region II Championship at Shawnee.

NEO traveled to Lubbock, Texas for their second straight visit to the Women’s Division I National Junior College Athletic Association National Tournament. After defeating Iowa Western 73-47 in the first round, the Lady Norse were eliminated 67-53 by Trinity Valley, Texas in the second game to finish 29-3 overall.

Over the past five seasons the Lady Norse are 78-10 in conference play and have a 35-game winning streak in the NEO Field House.

“I’ve told our kids over and over that there is a lot of basketball to be played,” Rowland said. “I feel like if we stay healthy, stay focused and take it game-by-game, then we’ll be there in the end.”

Guards Mikayla Shulanberger and Eneritz Larranga are two of the five sophomores that played for the Lady Norse last season.

Shulanberger (5-9 from Skiatook) averaged 4.1 points and 1.5 rebounds in 30 games last year.

Larranga (5-6 from Azpeitia, Spain) started the first part of last year at point guard before giving way to veteran Maria Green. She averaged 1.7 points and 1.2 rebounds while recording 38 assists and 15 steals in 32 games.

“Eneritz is a young lady that really embraces the tradition of our program,” Rowland said. “She is very fundamental and understands our offense very well as a point guard.”

Challenging Larranga at point is sophomore transfer Shaniah Bishop (5-7 from Chicago, Illinois). Last year Bishop played at Chicago’s Roosevelt University. She averaged 15.8 points with 46 assists and 13 steals in 26 games.

Several players for the Lady Norse will alternate between the No. 2 and No. 3 guard positions.

Joining Shulanberger at guards are freshmen Megan Jackson (5-9 from Tulsa Washington), Amare Weary (6-0 from Midwest City Carl Albert), Bethy Mununga (5-11 from Belgium), Topazia Hawkins (5-6 from Fort Smith, Arkansas, Northside) and Alexis Lambert (5-10 from Coalgate).

“While Mikayla knows and understands our program, she needs to become more consistent in shooting the three,” Rowland said. “Our freshmen have a variety of skills that will give us flexibility as to which position they get minutes at.”

Alternating between the wing and the No. 5 position are sophomore transfer Lidia Guiral (6-0 from Spain). Last year she appeared in 12 games at South Plains College in Levelland, Texas. She averaged 1.8 points and 1.1 rebounds.

Lidia just needs to understand the pace of basketball at this level,” Rowland said. “She is getting there and just needs more court time.”

Another sophomore transfer from South Plains expected to contribute down low is Miriam Gnanou (6-5 from the West Ivory Coast).

“Miriam joined us at mid-term last year after one semester at South Plains),” Rowland said. “She is long, athletic and can run except for the fact that she battles asthma. Two trips up and down the court and she’s breathing hard.”

“Although she can block shots, Miriam has to realize she can’t play physical all the time or she’ll be back on the bench with me,” Rowland said. “We are really not very deep at the No. 5 spot.”

The Lady Norse open the regular season at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 1, in the NEO Field House against the junior varsity from Bartlesville’s Oklahoma Wesleyan University. 

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