Shea-Hilliard Records First 17-Win Season in 2003-04
With her first head-coaching season in the books, Eileen Shea-Hilliard faced her next challenge of getting her young Oakland team to improve on last season’s record and again contend for a Mid-Con Championship and post-season championship bid. Oakland’s strong pre-season schedule, which included three NCAA Tournament opponents, would get them ready for that challenge.
Shea-Hilliard led Oakland to its first 17-win season in three years.
The Golden Grizzlies were led by all-conference selections Jayme Wilson, Amanda Batcha, and Petra Manakova. Wilson was a first team All-Mid-Con pick, averaging a league-leading 15.3 points per game. Batcha and Manakova both earned honorable mention honors, while Manakova was also selected to the all-newcomer team. Batcha finished in the top 10 in the conference in seven categories, as a driving force behind this Oakland team. Manakova provided much needed size and a defensive presence as she finished second on the team in rebounds per game and third in the Mid-Con in blocks. Fellow sophomore Anne Hafeli was the only other Grizzly player to average double digits in scoring. She finished second on the team in scoring and second in the conference in free throw percentage. She teamed up with Wilson to provide the most lethal three-point shooting combination in the league.
Oakland was tested immediately as they traveled to Chestnut Hill, Ma. for a season-opening showdown against eventual Big East Champion Boston College. Wilson hit a career-high seven three-pointers to help the Golden Grizzlies maintain a lead throughout most of the game. The Eagles took their first lead of the game with just over 11 minutes to play in the first half but Oakland stunned the crowd at Conte Forum by taking a 34-32, halftime lead. Boston College’s size would prove too much for the young Oakland team down the stretch though, breaking a 57-57 tie with just under three minutes to play on their way to a narrow 68-60 win.
Oakland opened up its home season against intrastate rival Central Michigan. Freshman Nicole Piggott scored 17 points on 7-of-12 shooting to lead her team to a 69-57 win over the Chippewas. Oakland began a three-game road trip by splitting two games at the Dead River Company Classic in Orono, Maine. They fell to Marquette before bouncing back to defeat Columbia. Manakova was named to the All-Tournament Team.
A game against cross-town rival Detroit wrapped up the road swing and started Oakland’s December schedule. The Golden Grizzlies won last season’s match-up at home. After being tied at halftime, Oakland outscored the Titans 32-30 to come away with a 57-45 win marking the first time in six tries the visiting team won.
The Grizzlies returned to the friendly confines of the O’rena to host SEC power Florida with a 3-2 record. The Gators roughed up a younger Oakland team early, jumping out to a 15-point lead. The Golden Grizzlies responded in the second half, clawing their way back into the game and taking a six-point lead with under five minutes to play. Florida's size helped them escape with a 76-72 win. Hafeli led four Oakland players in double figures with 17 points.
Wilson was a first team
Oakland recovered from its disappointing loss against the Gators and picked up wins against Bowling Green and Ohio University. The Golden Grizzlies went into Bowling Green and avenged last year’s last second, one-point loss by handing the Falcons a 70-63 defeat before blowing out Ohio University at home, 79-55.
The Golden Grizzlies wrapped up the non-conference portion of their schedule on a two-game win streak. After losing on the road to Niagara they came back with wins over Buffalo and Akron for a 7-4 overall record. With a strong pre-season they were poised to storm out of the gates as the conference season got underway.
Picked No. 4 in the Mid-Con preseason poll, Oakland would face the No. 1 and 2 teams in its first two Mid-Con games, beginning at home against Valparaiso in a rematch of last season’s conference tournament championship. The Crusaders hit a pair of decisive shots down the stretch to edge the Grizzlies.
A tough loss at preseason favorite Western Illinois proved to be a wake-up call for a seemingly hibernating Grizzlies team who went on to win their next four contests. A pair of home wins over IUPUI and Southern Utah combined with road wins against Chicago State and Centenary put Oakland at 11-6 overall and 4-2 in the conference.
The Golden Grizzlies defeated conference newcomer Centenary by a 68-53 count as Hafeli once again led the team with a career-high 26 points. Wilson had game highs against IUPUI and Southern Utah, scoring a career-high 32 points in the second game. Piggott and Manakova’s 11-point performances gave Oakland a 61-46 win over Chicago State.
Batcha’s eighth career double-double of 16 points and 11 rebounds was not enough to extend Oakland’s win streak in a 78-72 loss at home against UMKC.
A decisive win at home over Oral Roberts got Oakland back on the winning track. They then avenged an earlier season loss to Valparaiso, snapping the Crusaders 10-game conference home winning streak and handing them just their second loss in 15 games at home.
Oakland won three of its next four games as they continued to play the role of spoiler by handing UMKC their second loss in three games and first league loss at home this season in thrilling fashion. Holding on to a narrow one-point lead Wilson came up with two big steals in the final 15 seconds to seal a 54-52 victory. The win helped ease the pain of a disappointing 73-61 loss at Southern Utah two days earlier.
Oakland dropped two of three to finish the conference slate. Oral Roberts defeated the Golden Grizzlies in Tulsa by a 61-45 count. Oakland then lost a hard fought 73-69 overtime game at home to eventual regular season conference champion Western Illinois in the season finale. In between the two setbacks, Oakland picked up its 17th win of the season in its final road game with a convincing 70-58 defeat over IUPUI to 10-6. It gave them a 10-6 conference mark and a No. 4 seed in the Mid-Con Tournament.
Hoping to regain
earlier season form, which allowed Oakland to win seven of eight games,
including four straight, a very dangerous team entered the Mid-Con
first in Oakland’s way of a return trip to the conference finals was Oral Roberts. The two
teams split during the regular season with each team winning at home.
The Golden Grizzlies
were able to jump out to an early lead despite the unforgiving rims at
Kemper Arena that limited both squads to less than 30 percent shooting.
Oakland was able to take an early lead as Oral Roberts missed its first
nine shots. Once their shots started falling
a back and forth battle ensued and the game was knotted at 45 with less than two minutes remaining. In the end Oral Roberts would force two critical Oakland turnovers to help them advance to the next round with a 57-49 win. It was the first time since joining the Mid-Con that Oakland would not advance to the title game as they finished the season with a 17-10 record.
The final mark gave Oakland its first 17-win season in three years and with six players returning that accounted for 85 percent of the team's offense and 70 percent of the rebounding the Golden Grizzlies will be ready for another run at the Mid-Con Title next year.