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Washburn women's basketball set to open season in Crossover Challenge



Washburn University's women's basketball team will get a good idea of where it's at and where it needs to go in a hurry this weekend, playing two games in a 24-hour period in the MIAA/GAC Crossover Challenge Friday and Saturday in Weatherford, Okla. to open the 2021-22 season.

Washburn, which was 12-12 a year ago, will take on the host team, No. 16 Southwestern Oklahoma State, at 6 p.m. on Friday and then close out the tournament against Oklahoma Baptist with a 1 p.m. game Saturday.

Washburn, voted sixth in both the 2021-22 MIAA Coaches Preseason Poll and Media Poll, returns six players with starting experience and 14 total players from last season's team while welcoming three transfer players and four freshmen.

Hunter Bentley actionHunter Bentley is a top returning player for Washburn's women's basketball team after earning All-MIAA second-team honors last season. [File photo/TSN]

Although Friday is Washburn's official start to the season, the Ichabods did get an early test, dropping a 68-39 decision to Division I Kansas State in an exhibition contest on Oct. 31.

Veteran Washburn coach Ron McHenry is hopeful that the K-State game will give the Ichabods valuable experience moving forward.

"We did a nice job defensively most of the game,'' McHenry said. "We have some new players coming in that we're counting on to kind of make a difference for us and you don't really know a lot until you get film on them and get them in live action because practices are practices and live action is live action.

"So we were able to get them on the floor and see them and it also allowed them to see what they need to do to get better.''

Washburn also had another closed-door scrimmage against a Division I opponent to help the Ichabods get ready for this weekend.

"Those are great learning experiences, for me to see what kind of players we have and for them to see, 'Maybe coach was telling me the right things I need to do.' '' McHenry said. "It's very beneficial for us.

"it's just a process of trying to get kids who are coming in to understand what we want out of them.''

Ichabod returners Hunter Bentley and Nuria Barrientos received All-MIAA honors last season, with Bentley, a three-time All-MIAA honoree, earning second-team recognition and Barrientos earning honorable mention.

Bentley averaged 15.2 points last season while shooting 89.8 percent from the free throw line and ranking second in minutes in NCAA Division II, while Barrientos averaged 10.6 points and 7.8 rebounds a year ago.

Lauren Cassady appeared in all 24 games last season and averaged 5.4 points and 4.0 rebounds while Mackenzie Gamble came on strong at the end of her freshman season and ranked third on the team with a 7.5 scoring average.

Aubree Dewey started 16 of the 20 games she played in, averaging 6.3 points, while Abby Oliver started 13 games and averaged 8.9 points and 4.2 rebounds before being sidelined with an injury.

The Ichabods should get a boost from the addition of three incoming transfers -- Shae Sanchez (Northeastern State), Emma Chapman (Kansas State) and Mya Johnson (Northwestern Oklahoma State).

Washburn also added four true freshman who played their high school basketball in Kansas -- AustinBroadie (Trinity Academy), JadenNewfarmer (Andover Central), Olivia Wedman (Maize) and Bailey Collar (Olathe West).

Southwestern Oklahoma is ranked 16th in the WBCA Preseason Poll and 24th in the D2SIDA Preseason Poll after going 18-4 (16-2 GAC) and competing in the NCAA South Central Region Tournament championship game last season.

The Lady Bulldogs have three games under their belt and are 1-2 with an 86-80 victory over No. 6 Central Missouri on Oct. 30.

Southwestern Oklahoma State returns all five of its main starters including reigning GAC Player of the Year Makyra Tramble, who led the team in scoring (19.2 average) and rebounds (9.9).

Washburn's Saturday opponent, Oklahoma Baptist, is coming off a 4-17 season, but the Bison return their top three scorers from last season, led by Kalifa Ford who averaged 15.2 points in 13 games played. Jaylin Stapleton is back for her senior year after tallying 11.6 points and 3.94 assists per game.