YORK, PA – The York College women’s basketball team has been rewarded for their outstanding season as the Capital Athletic Conference post-season awards were announced on Tuesday afternoon. Head coach Betsy Witman was named the Capital Athletic Conference Coach-of-the-Year for the second time in her Spartan career. Senior point guard Keli Ward (Nottingham, Pa./Oxford) was named the CAC Player-of-the-Year while she was joined on the first team by sophomore April Sparkman (Walkersville, Md./Walkersville). Senior Chanel Perez (Biglerville, Pa./Gettysburg) was the fourth Spartan to be honored as she earned a second-team berth.
Ward is the second Spartan to earn the CAC Player of the Year award as former York standout Heather Kessler earned the award in 2003-2004. Ward is a four-time All-CAC selection and the Player-of-the-Year award comes after she was the 2005-06 Rookie-of-the-Year award.
Ward has done it all for the Spartans this year. Ward, a Jostens Trophy finalist, has been one of the top players in the country all season long. Ward is averaging 16.7 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 7.2 assists per game. She is shooting 52.8% from the floor, 41.8% from three, and 84.4% from the charity stripe. She is ranked first in the CAC in scoring, assists, steals, three-point field goal percentage, and assist to turnover ratio. She is third in free throw percentage, fourth in field goal percentage, tied for fifth in three-point field goals made, and eighth in rebounding. Ward is ranked second in the nation in assists and fifth in assist to turnover ratio.
In conference play, Ward leads the league in scoring (18.3 ppg), assists (7.0 apg), steals (3.1 spg), and assist to turnover ratio (3.3). She is second in field goal percentage and three-point field goal percentage while she is third in free throw percentage and sixth in rebounding and three-point field goals made.
Witman is happy to see her senior guard earn the post-season accolades.
“Keli has been the best player in our league all season,” says Witman. “She is such a huge part of everything we do, both on and off the court. Keli is the type of a player that a coach may only get once every 10 to 15 years. It has been a great privilege to get the opportunity to coach Keli.”
Ward’s name is all over the Spartans’ career record book. She has tallied 1,483 points, grabbed 770 rebounds, a school record 621 assists, 224 steals, and 64 blocked shots. She ranks fifth in scoring as she is three points away from moving into fourth place while she is fifth in rebounds, first in assists, fifth in blocked shots, fifth in career steals, fifth in career field goals made, second in career three-point field goals, and fifth in career scoring average.
Ward has recorded a team-best 14 double-doubles this year while she also has one triple double, against Rowan on November 18, this season. For her career, Ward has 27 double-doubles and two triple-doubles for York. In 2008-09, Ward reached double figures in scoring in 24 games, double figures in assists in seven games and double figures in rebounding in 11 games.
Witman led the Spartans to the greatest season in the history of the York College women’s basketball program with their 25-2 mark. York won a school-record 25 straight games, which was 17 games better than the previous school-record streak. The Spartans captured their first-ever Capital Athletic Conference regular season crown with their unprecedented 16-0 conference mark and then earned the program’s first NCAA Division III National Tournament berth. The Spartans also spent the entire second half of the season ranked in both the d3hoops.com Top 25 and the WBCA USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll. The Spartans reached as high as number eight in the d3hoops.com poll and fifth in the coaches’ poll. Under Witman, the Spartans won two in-season tournaments and have now won five straight in-season tournaments.
Sparkman has blossomed as a sophomore starter for the Green and White. Sparkman is averaging 15.6 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. She is shooting 50.3% from the floor, 41.4% from three, and 86.8% from the charity stripe. Sparkman ranks third in the CAC in scoring, second in free throw percentage and three-point field goal percentage, fifth in field goal percentage, tied for fifth in three-point field goals made per game, and tied for ninth in blocked shots.
Sparkman earned the MVP of the Mike Durgala Memorial Tournament hosted by Johns Hopkins in late November while she also earned All-Tournament team honors at the Coaches vs. Cancer Tournament in York in January.
Witman knows Sparkman performed to the level of an all-conference player as a sophomore.
“April has been a huge key to our success,” says Witman. “She has consistently made big plays for us all year and the chemistry that she has with Keli has been fun to watch. April is a very talented player who works extremely hard to continue her improvement as a player. I am looking forward to getting to coach her for another two years.”
In conference play, Sparkman is second in scoring (16.4 ppg), fourth in field goal percentage (54.1%), sixth in free throw percentage (80%), first in three point field goal percentage (44.3%), fifth in three-point field goals made and tied for 12th in blocked shots (0.8 bpg).
Sparkman reached double figures in all but four games this year while she eclipsed the 20-point barrier six times including a career-high 24 points in the February 7 win at St. Mary’s. She also recorded two double-doubles this year with 14 points and 10 rebounds against Franklin & Marshall on January 4 and 15 points and 10 rebounds in the victory over Stevenson on January 31.
Perez makes her first appearance on an All-CAC squad as her Spartan career is coming to a close. Perez is averaging 10.3 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 2.0 steals per game. She is shooting 43.7% from the floor, 41.7% from three, and 65.5% from the free throw line. Earlier in the season, Perez became the 12th member of the York College 1,000 career point club.
Perez has been good for the Green and White in 2008-09 as she has notched double figures in points 14 times this year while she has reached double figures in rebounding twice during the season. She notched a pair of double-doubles this year and now has nine for her career.
Witman knows how important Perez has been to the success of the Spartan season.
“I am really proud of how Chanel has played as a senior,” says Witman. “She has played so hard and done a nice job of doing what we ask her to do. I am happy to see her get recognized for her outstanding season.”
The Spartans continue their season on Friday evening as they open up the NCAA Division III Tournament against Christopher Newport in the opening round game. If York can get by the Captains, they would face the winner of the Cabrini/Baruch contest on Saturday for an opportunity to advance to the Sweet 16. Cabrini and Baruch begin the action Friday evening at 5:00 pm followed by York and Christopher Newport at 7:00 pm.
Photos courtesy of Steve Doemland (www.stevedoemland.com)