|Shannon Brady lived with two of last year's Bowdoin seniors and that experience clearly rubbed off on her.
Bowdoin athletics photo
By Josh Smith
When the Bowdoin women’s basketball team lost two of its first three games this season, it was clear to coach Adrienne Shibles that her Polar Bears were missing the on-court leadership they had the previous year.
Since that slow start to the season, Shannon Brady – the lone senior on the Bowdoin roster – has stepped up.
The 6-foot senior helped the Polar Bears remain poised, guiding the team on an eight-game winning streak. Then Brady helped the team weather three defeats in a six-game span before Bowdoin won another eight games in a row.
Now Bowdoin is back in the Sweet 16 and looking to make a push for a championship.
“Those were disappointing losses. However, they were against two quality teams very early in the season,” Shibles said while reflecting on the season.
“Going in, we knew we would face a lot of tough opponents. I think we did a really great job of taking those losses early on, and not dwelling on them,” Brady added.
Those early losses were Bowdoin’s first games since Sara Binkhorst, Megan Phelps and Siena Mitman graduated. Shibles called that trio the most impressive leaders and players she had ever coached.
“That’s always a great opportunity when leaders like that graduate to have other people step up. But sometimes there are growing pains that come along with that,” the coach said.
Fortunately for the Polar Bears, Brady picked up a few qualities while rooming with Phelps and Mitman last year.
“I definitely learned a lot from them in terms of leadership styles – what works and what doesn’t,” said Brady, noting she tries to lead by example on the floor.
“I think the huge part of it has been the way that our underclassmen have stepped up too,” she added. “We have a shared leadership model on our team this year, and I think it shows through on the court when we play.”
Shibles has been elated by Brady’s leadership, noting the senior is a tremendous player with a steady approach to the game.
“She has an expectation to win. She knows how to be successful. When she sees adversity, you never see her hang her head,” the coach explained. “She’s just a fantastic player and person, and she has really taken over that leadership role in a very positive way.
“She has a great way of empowering those around her and making everyone better.”
Bowdoin was ranked No. 7 in the preseason Top 25, but tumbled out of the poll after those early losses to Plattsburgh State and the University of New England.
Shibles said the team learned a lot from those games, and took the opportunity to get better – especially on the defensive end of the court.
“I think we just had some growing pains to endure early in the season. But I love the way the team responded,” Shibles said. “They showed a lot of resilience and we really started to focus on those aspects of our game that we needed to improve on.”
While Brady has scored a team-high 16 points per game to go along with an average of 6.4 rebounds, a number of other players have played pivotal roles.
Sophomore Kate Kerrigan was named the NESCAC’s defensive player of the year for the second time and junior Marle Curle has been an excellent facilitator while running the point.
And, according to Shibles, the team’s depth has been crucial, too.
“The supporting cast has really improved and contributed in meaningful ways,” she said.
After playing one of the toughest schedules in the country this season, the defensive-minded Polar Bears advanced to the Sweet 16 by holding Westfield State and NYU to their lowest point totals of the season.
“I’m a true believer that defense wins championships,” Shibles said.
Bowdoin will continue to focus on defense when the team squares off with Rochester Friday. A win could set up a meeting with NESCAC rival and host Amherst Saturday for the right to go to the Final Four.
The coach said the team needs to defend the paint and rebound well in order to advance. The Polar Bears will try to utilize their balanced inside-out play on offense as well.
Perhaps more important than the specific game plan, the majority of the players on the roster experienced last year’s run to the Sweet 16. Bowdoin hopes that experience pays off this weekend.
“To have a starting five this year, who have all been there last year, I think that’s really invaluable,” Shibles said. “We know every game is going to be a tough game because we’ve been there before. We know not to take anyone lightly.
“The bar is set very high.”