Harding voted preseason #1. Photo Courtesy: Harding University Athletics
RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. (Harding Univ.) -- The Great American Conference women's basketball
coaches have selected Harding as the preseason favorite to win the conference
championship, the league office announced on Wednesday.
The Lady Bisons captured five of the nine first-place votes to edge out the
reigning regular-season champion, Arkansas Tech, as well as the conference
tournament champion, Southwestern Oklahoma State. They return a core that
includes 2011-12 First Team All-GAC performer Kristen Celsor.
She averaged 13.5 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. They also feature a pair of
Lewis and Arielle Saunders.
Lewis earned GAC Freshman of the Year after averaging 11.1 points per game in
league play. Saunders landed on the All-Tournament Team after she averaged 20.0
points and 11.7 rebounds in the Lady Bisons run to the title game.
Arkansas Tech took second in the poll, one point in back of Harding. The
Golden Suns, who received three first-place votes, finished last season 22-4
and reached the No. 1 spot in the USA Today/ESPN WBCA Division II Coaches' Poll
in January. They feature seniors Jessica Weatherford and Roselis Silva. Silva
set the Arkansas Tech single-game record for steals with 12 and the
single-season mark with 126. Silva received GAC Defender of the Year,
First-Team All-GAC, and Daktronics Second-Team All-South Central Region awards.
More recently, Division II Bulletin named her the "Super 16" Preseason
All-America team. Weatherford averaged close to 12 points and seven rebounds
per while connecting on 51.5 percent of her field goals.
Southwestern Oklahoma State received the final first-place vote to place
third in the poll. The Bulldogs won 20 games last season and beat Harding in
the final the win the inaugural GAC Championship. They replace six graduating
seniors and feature 10 newcomers. Among the newcomers, GAC Coach of the Year
Kelsi Musick brought in two sets of twins - Taryn and Sarina Sayama and Britton
and Brooklyn Scott - to join a third set of twins, MaRiah and SaRaya Oyler on
The Arkadelphia rivals, Henderson State and Ouachita Baptist, took fourth
and fifth in the poll. Southeastern Oklahoma State placed sixth followed by
Arkansas-Monticello and East Central, who shared seventh. Southern Arkansas
rounded out the poll.
Coaches did not include provisional members Northwestern Oklahoma State and
Southern Nazarene in the preseason ballot.
The 2011-12 regular season tips off Friday, November 9 and culminates
Saturday, March 2. The GAC championship returns to Bartlesville, Okla. at the
Bruin Fieldhouse and will take place from March 7-10, 2013. Eight of the
league's nine teams will participate in the event.