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Change of Plans Benefitting SPU Women's Basketball Team
Both Aubree Callen (14) and Betsy Kingma (21) have been key players for SPU this winter.
Both Aubree Callen (14) and Betsy Kingma (21) have been key players for SPU this winter.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

SEATTLE – According to plan, Betsy Kingma should be midway through her first busy auditing season with a Seattle accounting firm.

Aubree Callen should be coaching somewhere, or maybe even playing overseas.

Both Seattle Pacific basketball players should be former Seattle Pacific basketball players.

According to plan.

But plans change.

The accounting job is still waiting. A coaching door is bound to open.

But for now, these two Falcon players are still Falcon players for a couple more months. That included last Saturday when, instead of being in the Brougham Pavilion stands as alums for Homecoming, they were on the court as starters as SPU beat Montana State Billings, 64-55.

 “It’s amazing that once the season started, I have never second-guessed that I was supposed to be here,” said Kingma, who played just two games of her true junior season (2012-13) before shutting it down for shoulder surgery. “This was meant to be my senior year. It’s the most fun group of girls I’ve ever played basketball with.”

Callen likewise doesn’t need any convincing that her decision to come back after a knee injury early in what was supposed to be her senior season in 2013-14 was the right one to make.

“I wanted to have a successful season where I would be able to benefit the team a lot,” she said.

SUCCESS? STATS AND STANDINGS SAY YES, INDEED

Callen is enjoying precisely the kind of successful season she dreamed of, as is Kingma – and both are benefitting the team in multiple ways.

The Falcons are ranked No. 18 nationally this week as they head out on a road trip to Central Washington and Northwest Nazarene, owning a 17-3 overall record and a 9-3 GNAC mark that has them in second place and in serious pursuit of its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2011.

After a rough stretch three weeks ago that ended with losses at Western Oregon and Saint Martin’s, Seattle Pacific bounced back in a big way to beat Simon Fraser, GNAC preseason favorite Western Washington, and Montana State Billings, the three conference teams that made last year’s NCAAs.

“The GNAC is so good, if you take a night off, you’re probably going to lose,” Callen said. “We definitely need to play well the next few weeks.”’

Kingma sees no reason why that shouldn’t happen.

“I feel as the season has gone on, we just click more and more,” she said. “As much as the tone is set by the seniors, we have a ton of freshmen and sophomores, and they just continue to improve every day.”

The two of them had plenty to do with getting SPU back on track.

In the Simon Fraser game on Jan. 29, the 5-foot-11 Kingma, from Newport High School in nearby Bellevue, was primarily responsible for keeping Clan star Erin Chambers in check. She helped limit the leading scorer in NCAA Division II to just 16 points (seven below her average) and blocked two of her shots late in the game. Against Western, Kingma buried four treys, and in the Billings game, she grabbed a career-high nine rebounds.

Callen, a 5-9 guard from Jerome, Idaho, whose box score line usually includes some of everything, had 43 points – including the 1,000th of her career – and 19 rebounds in the Simon and Western games combined. That was enough to earn her first GNAC Player of the Week award. Her 20 points and 10 rebounds in the Western Washington game went into the book as her second career double-double. She logged another 19 points and seven boards against the Yellowjackets.

“Betsy and Aubree are both big competitors, and they both understand the game,” head coach Julie Heisey said. “When they had to sit out (while healing), they were intentional about trying to be better.

“No one every wants anyone to be injured,” she continued. “But there are things you learn in a redshirt year – if nothing else, you mature as a person. And having come back from an injury, you realize how precious things are.”

ONE MORE YEAR AS TEAMMATES

That both of them are still playing is due in part to the NCAA’s medical redshirt rule, which stipulates: If a season-ending injury is sustained and the athlete has not participated in more than 20 percent of the schedule contests, she is allowed to apply for restoration of that year of eligibility.

Kingma played in just those two games early in 2012-13. Callen’s injury occurred during last season’s third game. In both cases, that was below the NCAA’s 20 percent maximum.

Ironically, though Kingma already had been granted her extra year of eligibility before Callen went down, she wasn’t sure if she was going to use it.

“My surgery happened before my internship at the accounting firm. After my internship, I got really excited to start working,” Kingma said. “I was ready to start that chapter in my life and was looking forward to it. At the start of my academic senior year (2013-14), I was struggling with that decision.

“After Aubree tore her ACL, I no longer questioned it. If Aubree was going to come back, there was no way I wasn’t going to come back.”

In the days following her knee injury, Callen actually pondered – briefly – the possibility of continuing to play that season, if only in a limited way.

“I always thought of maybe playing through and just playing my senior year,” she said. “But there was never really a question that I would come back. And Betsy was staying another year, so that was an added bonus.”

TRUST + CONFIDENCE = RESULTS

Callen and Kingma, along with fellow seniors Suzanna Ohlsen and Maddey Pflaumer, have impeccable on-court chemistry – and it doesn’t always show up in the box score.

But far more often than not, it shows up in the final score.

“When I step on the court, I’m not questioning whether Sue or Betsy or Maddey is going to bring it. I just know,” Callen said. “Stacey (Lukasiewicz) and Hannah (Rodrigues) bring a lot of energy, and our freshmen come in and give what they can give.

“It’s just trust and confidence in each other,” Callen added. “Once you have that, it’s all basketball.”

Sometimes, that trust is evident in subtle ways.

Late in the first half of an 81-65 victory against Northwest Nazarene on Jan. 15 in Brougham, Callen got open in 3-point territory on the right side. Kingma passed the ball across the court to her. An instant after the shot left Callen’s hands, Kingma already was clapping and pointing at her teammate, no doubt in her mind that it was going in. (It did.)

“When Aubree has the ball, something good is going to happen,” Kingma said. “This group just feels so natural. Sue has never had to wonder all season where I’m going to be on the fast break; we know where Maddey wants the ball … It’s just a sense of natural out there that I’ve never had on a team.”

With seven regular-season games left, the Falcons are inching toward their first NCAA Tournament berth since 2011 – Kingma and Callen’s freshman year.

“As we get closer to postseason, experience shows,” Kingma said. “We have a lot of seniors who have played a lot of minutes. So when push comes to shove, we’ll have a fun end of the season.”

Added Callen, I really believe we can do something special as soon as we get into the postseason stuff. We’ll see different people step up and see how the team comes together.

“We still have a lot left in us.”

To Aubree Callen and Betsy Kingma …

… that sounds like a plan.

 

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