Athlete’s Block: Basketball

The Pioneers made Smith basketball history this season when they earned a place in the NCAA Division III Championships for the very first time. Undaunted by this feat, the Pioneers continued to set records this season by marking their NCAA debut with an amazing 80-58 victory over No. 8 University of Southern Maine.

Though the Pioneers fell to Ithaca College 73-50 on March 2, this season, without a doubt, was worthy of celebration. The Sophian interviewed Co-Captains and seniors Devon Quattrocchi and Amanda Zakoske for their thoughts on this season’s accomplishments.

What were your thoughts as you made the long drive to USM?

Amanda: I can always sleep on the bus, but on the drive to USM I didn’t get any sleep. We watched a few movies, but it wasn’t enough to quiet the feelings. I was overwhelmed. It hadn’t felt real all week that we were going to the tournament, but being on the bus heading to USM meant it was actually happening.

How did you feel in the last seconds of your game against USM, knowing that there was no way they could catch up?

Amanda: First, basketball at the collegiate level is played in two 20-minute halves. In the final minutes of the USM game, there was no relief. It was the tournament, and a lead is never secure. Despite leading the whole time, it was not until the very end that I could breathe. We had done it. We had made history.

Devon: The last seconds … felt unreal. I remember doing a backdoor cut and making a lay up and just raising my hands up the the crowd. I had the biggest smile on my face and probably looked like a fool but it was one of the greatest feelings. We worked hard the whole game in addition to the entire season and it finally became apparent to me that we would win. I could no longer suppress my excitement. We not only made it to the tournament but we won our first challenge.

How do you feel about your game with Ithaca?

Amanda: Against Ithaca, I was feeling confident. We had watched them play a half the day before, but from the first tip off, it was just like any other game. Except we were not our usual selves. We were doing things we had not done all season. We didn’t play like us. We weren’t Smith. Coming out of half time, I hoped we could pick it up. I gave pep talks and tried my best to get my team going. It wasn’t enough. Ithaca came ready to play and the just out basketball’ed us.

Devon: I felt that our game with Ithaca was not our best performance and when you don’t show up to play against a good team they are going to beat you by 20. We started off slow and we let our fatigue get the best of us for the first 20 minutes. I think we had a much better second half but we dug ourselves too big of a hole to be able to come back.

What made this season the one where the Pioneers made NCAA? Technique? Strategy? Drive?

Amanda: This year was a culmination of a lot of hard work and dedication. You cannot look at the success we had this year as a product of our work since day one of the season. We were able to make the NCAA tournament because as a team, and as individuals, we worked our butts off every day during the off season; every day at practice we came focused and ready to work. We knew every day wasn’t going to be perfect, but the goal was to have enough really good, hard work days and to minimize the off days. Between each individual’s efforts, our coaching staff made sure we were the most prepared team going into the game. They watched hours of film and prepared a game plan to win.

Devon: This season we were dedicated to working working hard. Our coaches put together great game plans each and every game and we would do our best to execute them.

As seniors, you have certainly ended your Smith basketball career with a bang. What does it mean for you to have such an outstanding season in your last year?

Amanda: Leaving on such a high note is a true honor. Its not many teams who get to the tournament, let alone the second round. As amazing as the tournament was, I know myself and the other seniors are much more proud of the fact that we’ve established a program here. We’ve helped to build something that will last so much longer than our time here.

Devon: This season has been incredible and has been an amazing end to my collegiate career. I wish it wasn’t over because I feel Smith will keep getting better. We have set the standard.

How will basketball fit into your lives after Smith?

Amanda: I am interested in continuing to have basketball as a part of my life for years to come. I am a regular participant at pick up games at my YMCA in Florida. I am considering trying out to play professional basketball overseas. I have also been offered a coaching position for high school girls. Additionally, I am confident basketball will always be a part of my life, if not professionally, recreationally.

Devon: I will continue to have basketball be a huge part of my life after Smith. I haven’t decided in what way yet, but I will always be somehow involved in the sport of basketball. I may play overseas or try and coach somewhere.

Do you have any advice for the team to achieve the same results (or better) next year?

Amanda: I left the team with a tear-filled post-game speech, but they know what it took this year. It will be harder next year in some ways. Once you have achieved something, it can seem like a right, and it’s easy to forget the hours it took to get there. I hope they will remember the great feeling of success and set higher goals for next year. I look forward to following their growth and progress from afar.

Devon: Don’t settle for anything. Keep working hard. Hard work. Dedication. Belief.

It may be the last hurrah for the seniors, but for the returning members of Smith basketball, this victorious season is just the beginning. Looking to the next season, can the Pioneers do it again?

Devon, Amanda and Brittany mean so much to our program, and all we can do as underclassmen is keep working as hard as we can every single day,” said center/forward Rosa Drummond 14. “This season’s success is a product of their tremendous leadership over these past four years, and we have even more motivation to carry on their example next year.”

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