Lennox earns all-conference honors

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Lennox earns all-conference honors

Gaurd Grace Lennox splits SIUE defenders during the Panthers' 75-59 loss Saturday. Jan. 28 at Lantz Arena.

Gaurd Grace Lennox splits SIUE defenders during the Panthers' 75-59 loss Saturday. Jan. 28 at Lantz Arena.

Bryan Bund

Gaurd Grace Lennox splits SIUE defenders during the Panthers' 75-59 loss Saturday. Jan. 28 at Lantz Arena.

Bryan Bund

Bryan Bund

Gaurd Grace Lennox splits SIUE defenders during the Panthers' 75-59 loss Saturday. Jan. 28 at Lantz Arena.

Mark Shanahan, Women's Basketball Reporter

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Junior Grace Lennox of the Eastern women’s basketball team earned All-OVC honors and is the sixth Panther in school history to do so.

The All-Conference selections were announced on Tuesday morning and Lennox was the only Panther to be recognized. This is the first time in Lennox’s career that she has been recognized for a conference award.

Lennox said it was a good feeling to start playing the way she knows she can.

“Honestly it feels pretty relieving,” Lennox said. “I feel like I have always had potential to be in the top of our league, but I had not lived up to it in my first two years.”

The native from Hobart, Tasmania was the Panther’s offensive leader this season averaging 16.3 points and 4.4 assists per game. Lennox finished third in the Ohio Valley Conference in scoring with 19 points per game in conference play. She finished top 10 in the conference in assists, steals and minutes per game.

Lennox worked on many things following last season to help her have a breakout season.

“Over the post and preseason with the help of my incredible coaching staff and strength coach, I worked super hard on my ability to stop and start quickly and be more explosive,” Lennox said. “My jump shot had always been solid, but I rarely used it in games. My coaches really got stuck into me about using it more, so I took their advice and it paid off. I also worked on finishing with contact and drawing the foul. This helped me get to the foul line many more times in the past.”

The improved play of Lennox at the guard position helped her team earn six more wins then they did last season. Eastern finished the season with a record of 9-19 overall and a 5-11 record in the OVC. Last year, Eastern had just three wins and two of them came against conference opponents.

The loss of a top scorer and rebounder in junior Jalisha Smith hurt the Panther’s. Smith was injured before conference play began this season and was unable to return for the rest of the year.

Eastern will lose just one of five starters next season to graduation with leading rebounder and top scorer Erica Brown graduating as the first player to graduate from the program under coach Debbie Black.

Although it was a young team this year, Eastern gained a lot of experience out of its freshman that all played in at least 24 of the 27 games. Allison Van Dyke started every game this season along with Lennox and Brown. Van Dyke averaged 9.5 points per game and was a top newcomer in the conference early in the season.

Zharia Lenoir and Jennifer Nehls also earned starts throughout the year for Eastern and Danielle Berry came in as a reserve guard. A six-win improvement in just one year is a big step for this program that will return a lot of experience.

Tearra Banks from Austin Peay was named the Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year as she averaged 19.3 points per game while averaging 8 rebounds per game. Belmont’s Sally McCabe was named Defensive Player of the year and Belmont’s Cameron Newbauer earned Coach of the Year after a perfect season in the OVC.

Mark Shanahan can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]