Women’s basketball reminisces on successful season

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Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo
BYU women’s basketball cheers as they hold the championship banner and trophy following their WCC Championship victory (Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)

Great players, team chemistry and a whole lot of heart were key to BYU women’s basketball’s successful 2018-19 season, the team said.

This team first played together in August 2018 when they traveled to Europe to play games in several countries.

“I think after Europe I knew this team was different. The bond that we all got from Europe and the way we played together with so much chemistry was amazing,” BYU women’s basketball guard Brenna Chase said.

When the season came around, like any team, the girls were working out the kinks. Chase said since they had such a young team, many of the girls were still trying to learn head coach Jeff Judkins’ system.

The team lost only seven games over the course of the season, with three of those losses happening in the first ten games.

After a tough loss to Utah that dropped their record to 6-3, the Cougars went on an 11-game win streak, with the last nine games of that win streak being in conference play. Freshman guard Shaylee Gonzales said there were two wins within this 11-game win streak that were turning points in the season.

First, the team competed in the SDSU tournament and faced TCU, a team that finished the season with an impressive 24-11 record. The Cougars won the game 61-58. Gonzales said after this win she knew this team was special. The team realized they could do anything they set their minds to, she said.

The second game that propelled BYU forward was their first win against Gonzaga, the No. 13 ranked team in the nation at the time, Gonzales said. This big win marked the first time the Cougars beat the Zags. Gonzales said fan support at the game provided an intense environment.

“We had tons of fans supporting us and it was the best feeling to know that we beat the No. 13 ranked team in the nation,” Gonzales said. “The whole nation knew that we had beat Gonzaga.”

Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo
Shaylee Gonzales and Paisley Johnson come together to celebrate during BYU’s 68-63 comeback win over Pepperdine on March 11. (Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)

The Cougars beat every team in the conference but stumbled in the middle of their season, going on a three-game losing streak to start the second half of conference play.

“We were struggling during this point, and these were games we should have won,” Gonzales said. “But after those games, we told ourselves that this can’t happen again and we were going to go up from there.”

Sophomore guard Paisley Johnson said the team had become comfortable and complacent. They did not make needed adjustments during games, and their opponents were making improvements and revealing the Cougars’ weaknesses. Johnson said the team learned how to play with each other and use each other’s strengths to benefit the team as a whole.

“We had to look at ourselves and look at how we work together as a team, and we came back stronger than ever,” Johnson said.

Once the Cougars rediscovered their identity, they won the rest of their conference games and the WCC championship, finished the season 26-7, received an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament and beat Auburn in the first round. BYU’s season ended in a 63-72 loss to the No. 2 seeded Stanford in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

“I feel like our demeanor the whole year was one of confidence. Even when things went wrong, I still felt that way,” BYU women’s basketball associate head coach Dan Nielson said.

BYU women’s basketball has had a tradition of excellence within the program over the years. (Dolli Player)

Much of the team will return next season, with 11 of their 16 players being underclassman. In addition to the young roster, all three of the Cougars’ top scorers are returning, along with four of the five starters. The Cougars said they believe they have all the pieces they need for a successful season.

“Hopefully this will allow them to draw from their experiences this season for continued success in the future,” BYU women’s basketball assistant coach Ashley Garfield said.

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