By Th‚oden K. Janes
Arizona Daily Wildcat
By the time March had rolled around, "Wait 'til next year" had become to the UA women's basketball team what "Life is like a box of chocolates" is to Forrest Gump. They became words to live by.
This was somewhat unusual considering the season began back in November when UA coach Joan Bonvicini said her current team was "much more talented, I think, than any year."
That was Nov. 2, media day, during a time when Bonvicini was still adjusting to life with eight newcomers. In fact, at one point, standing at a podium under the glare of ceiling and camera lights, Bonvicini gestured to freshman guard DeAngela Minter and said: "(This is) Amber Phoenix, Amber ... wait no that's not Amber I can't see with the light Ä I'm sorry, DeAngela Minter. DeAngela, raise your hand. I can't see with the background over there."
But over the course of the next four months, the Wildcats were never able to get everything completely squared away, ending the season at a rather disappointing 11-19 overall (6-12 in the Pacific 10 Conference).
Following are some of the highlights and lowlights from the Wildcats' 1994-95 season:
Dec. 11, 1994 Ä "Wildcats rough up Nevada"
Five foot, eleven inch freshman forward Keisha Anderson surprises everyone by scoring eight points and grabbing 10 rebounds in a 79-57 win over Nevada that improves the UA to 3-4.
In fact, Anderson is only put in Ä at the game's onset Ä for one reason.
"Since she (Bonvicini put me in for the tip, I basically just thought I needed to make the most of it," Johnson says. "It helps a lot (in terms of confidence) just because I played well."
Jan. 12, 1995 Ä "Arizona turns in flawless display"
The Wildcats outshoot Cal .534 to .386, outrebound them 45-38, outdo them in assists 19-10, and beat them in bench scoring 33-12. The final result is a 92-67 win, prompting Bonvicini to call the performance the "best team game we've played the entire year."
Atina Harris, Adia Barnes, JiJi Sweet, Brenda Pantoja and Mikko Giordano all score in double figures as the Wildcats improve their record to 7-7.
Jan 26, 1995 Ä "Wildcats savor Sweet victory"
Following Bonvicini's instructions, Sweet intentionally misses the second half of a one-and-one to help Arizona seal a 79-74 win over No. 24 Oregon that improves the Wildcats to 9-9 (4-2 in the Pac-10).
"I was thinking, 'should I miss or should I shoot it and make it?'," Sweet says with a devious smile, and then adds, half-jokingly, "I was thinking about keeping my free-throw percentage up."
Feb. 16, 1995 Ä "Harris helps women by hitting winning shot"
With 4.1 seconds remaining in the game and the score tied at 61, Harris drives to the right baseline, stumbles and looks like she is going to get whistled for travelling.
But an instant later, she banks in a 10-footer, sealing a 63-61 Wildcat victory over UCLA that improves the UA to 10-14 (5-7 in the Pac-10).
"As I tried to go up, I planted my left foot and it just sprained a little bit," Harris says. "My foot got caught and so the best thing for me to do so I wasn't going to get called for a travel is just shoot the ball. It went in ... I won't call it luck."
March 2, 1995 Ä "Critical call costs Wildcats win"
With 33 seconds left and Washington leading 68-64, Pantoja dumps a pass down low to Barnes, who runs into a Husky defender and gets called for an offensive foul that leads to a 71-68 UW win. Arizona falls to 10-18 (5-11 in the Pac-10).
About a week later Ä and at least a month and a half since dashing any hope of making it to the NCAA tournament for the first time in UA history Ä the Wildcats close out the season by beating Arizona State for the second time of the season.
Immediately, there began talk of great things to come. The fact that the team would be losing only one player to graduation, Sweet,
and that the seven freshmen had matured greatly over the course of the season and would help the Wildcats vie for a Pac-10 title in 1996.
The four words seemed to echo throughout the McKale Center halls Ä "Wait 'til next year."
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