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The Driver’s Seat: Rogers seeks Final Four, this time as coach

The Driver’s Seat: Rogers seeks Final Four, this time as coach

ARLINGTON, Va. - Ashlee Rogers was playing women's basketball at Marymount in 2002 when the Saints made another trip to the NCAA Division III tournament under legendary Head Coach Bill Finney.

Marymount blew out host Salisbury, a team that had easily beaten the Saints a few days earlier. That meant Marymount would face King's, which defeated rival Scranton in its previous game.

"We noticed the next day the coach from King's had shaved his head," recalled Finney, whose team assumed the win over Scranton was very significant. "Ashlee comes back into the locker room before the game and said she overheard the King's player saying when they beat Marymount they will do this (and that). That inspired the team."

The Saints beat King's in that game and advanced to the Final Four.

"They were definitely looking past us at that time," Rogers recalls. "We were definitely overlooked."

Now, 15 years later, Rogers is the head coach of the Saints and her squad is two wins away from an appearance in the Final Four.

"Maybe the same thing will happen," Rogers said of her current at-large bid team.

After two wins last weekend, in which Finney was on hand to watch in person in North Carolina, Marymount will play on Friday at 9 p.m., against St. Thomas in Minnesota.

"We are peaking at the right time," said Rogers, before boarding a flight Wednesday to Minnesota. "Losing to Frostburg (on Jan. 25) was a big hiccup for us. It opened our eyes" and led to 10 wins in the next last 11 games.

Marymount has four players (Leah Hurst, Kiki Laux, Nicole Viscuso and Tyfanni McQueen) who have started every game and a fifth (Regan Lohr) who has started all but two.

The Saints have five players averaging between 8.8 and 11.6 points per contest and no player on the roster is taller than 6-foot-1 and no starter is above 6-foot. Laux is the only senior and the Saints have just two juniors.

"We know we have to play together as a team," McQueen said. "It is a team sport. We are lucky we don't rely on one player."

"It takes more than one player to win a championship," Rogers said. "I think we have five starters who play really well together."

The Saints (24-5) have a balanced offensive attack that impressed Finney as he watched last weekend in North Carolina. And he was impressed with Rogers, his former player.

"Personally I think she is an unbelievable coach," Finney said. "She has a system of basketball that she has stayed with and developed. Her teams believe in it. I marvel at what she does."

Sophomore guard McQueen, who came to North Arlington from New Jersey, is averaging 9.0 points per contest.

"She is very passionate about what she wants for us," McQueen said of Rogers. "She explains that very clearly to us. She is very good at making our game plan and want we need to do."

Rogers missed most of her first season as a player before concluding her career before she graduated in 2003.

"She was a great scorer; she was a coach on the floor," said Finney. "She really understands the game. She was a great leader. She could shoot the ball but she found ways to make the team successful."

Finney said the current Saints remind him of undersized men's teams he was part of at Syracuse in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

"I watched them this past weekend," he said. "That is exactly what I was looking at with Laux and Hurst and these kids. They know what they have to do. They are all ordinary players doing extraordinary things. I was just blown away."

(Pictures courtesy of d3photography.com)

 

Editor's note: David Driver is a special consultant to the MU athletic department. He can be reached at www.davidsdriver.com

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