Seahawks pick up first CAA win of season

Barefoot: “High fives to everyone here who put the work in [to make Seahawks Tomorrow happen.]”

Brandon Sans, Sports Editor

Match the crowd’s energy.

That was the message UNC Wilmington women’s basketball coach Karen Barefoot sent to her team prior to its Colonial Athletic Association opener against College of Charleston. But this was no ordinary Trask Coliseum crowd.

From courtside to the rafters, the screams, cheers and dance moves of thousands of elementary school students from across New Hanover county spirited the Seahawks to a 71-49 victory on Friday.

Spread the wealth

After guard Shrita Parker scored the first Seahawk (8-4, 1-0 CAA) basket, she took in the crowd of 4,511 as they screamed and cheered her on. It was the first of a game-high 17 points for Parker whose outgoing personality was tailor-made for the energetic crowd.

“I felt a little emotional actually,” said Parker on her first basket. “Something in my body was just like ‘Put your hands up.’ Just hearing them scream so loud, I was inspired and motivated.”

Parker was joined by fellow starters Chinyere Bell (12 points), GiGi Smith (13 points) and Lacey Suggs (16 points). Nine different Seahawks scored against the Cougars (4-8, 0-1 CAA) and 14 Seahawks saw game action.

“Our depth wore them out. That’s going to be important all year,” said Barefoot. “Even if it’s just a few possessions. Play as hard as you can. Get a floor burn or tough rebound. Let’s get it and push it.” 

Seahawks Tomorrow

With students still on winter holiday, Barefoot and UNCW Athletics organized its second Seahawks Tomorrow game of the year. The goal behind the event was to connect the surrounding schools to their home university.

Barefoot told a story of a coach taking her to a college soccer game in her youth which sparked her interest in college that has led her on a playing and coaching career to UNCW. She hoped a student in the crowd could have a similar experience after today.

“It’s our community. Some of these kids have been at my camp, some have never been on a college campus,” said Barefoot about the Seahawks Tomorrow game. “Maybe someone leaves here and wonders what it takes. It starts with school first.”

Bell and Parker echoed their coach as the crowd reminded them what it was like to fall in love with the game of basketball when they were the same age as the elementary school students watching them. For Bell, it specifically reminded her of watching older siblings play and desiring to be in the position she found herself in today.

“I know how those children feel, we all do because that’s how we all fell in love with basketball,” said Bell. “We wanted to play for them. The energy felt comfortable. It was just fun.”

Seahawks today

It took UNCW 11 CAA games to earn its first conference win last season. The Seahawks did it on their first try this year and held the Cougars to under 50 points for the first time this year.

The pace of play wasn’t conducive to success in the first quarter which ended in a tie. After that, the Seahawks began pushing the ball up and inside as the Cougars began falling into foul trouble.

“Down the stretch, we wanted to be in attack mode,” said Barefoot. “At halftime, we talked about being more aggressive and come out with a demeanor.”

The Seahawks outscored the Cougars by 20 in the paint and scored 17 points on the fast break. 22 Cougar fouls provided a path for 17 points from the line. In short, the Seahawks dominated a game they led for all but 20 seconds of play.