Eastern women’s basketball freshman Lariah Washington took home the Ohio Valley Conference Freshman of the Year award to go along with an OVC All-Newcomer Team selection and an All-OVC First-Team pick along with junior Karle Pace.
Washington got the nod after taking home four OVC Freshman of the Week honors this season, averaging 13.2 points in conference play, good for second on the team, on 51.5 percent shooting in OVC action and 5.1 rebounds per game, both of which are team-highs.
One of the biggest highlights of the season for Washington was a 35-point explosion against Murray State, the second-highest mark for a freshman in Eastern history, but Washington was not posting huge scoring nights right away, and she says the process to improvement has been because of the people around her.
“My coaches and players really pushed me to be better, and I’ve learned a lot from being around them,” Washington said. “Just the more experience with the games has really helped me get more comfortable.
Head coach Matt Bollant said that Washington has come into her own in many different facets of her game.
“Especially defensively, just off the ball getting so much better, but, she’s shooting over 50 percent from the field which is pretty amazing for a guard,” Bollant said. “Just developing getting to the rim…just getting her more on-balanced, and then her three-point shooting has gotten better and better.”
Washington tends to keep her emotions in check during games, and Bollant said that mindset meshes with the rest of the team in a great way.
“She doesn’t show a ton of emotion, which Karle [Pace] certainly does, [sophomore] Kira [Arthofer] does, and we have some others that will do that, and you need different personalities on the team, but Lariah’s just been really solid, and you see it in her game,” Bollant said.
For Pace, her personality comes alongside strong play as well, leading the team in scoring during OVC matchups with 17.5 points per game, No. 4 in the conference, and pacing the OVC with a 46.5 percent three-point clip, 5.4 percent higher than the second-ranked scorer.
Pace said she was excited to get the first-team nod, and taking over her role as a team leader has been a product of leaning on her team and letting them lean back.
“It gives me confidence, so that I know my coach’s count on me, my teammates count on me, so it’s kind of a heavy load, but I can handle it,” Pace said.
Bollant said Pace will be huge for the impending OVC tournament, especially in crunch time.
“That’s part of being a team, different players making plays, but certainly Karle, we need her leadership, and we need her ability to make big plays when the game is on the line,” Bollant said.
This is the first time Eastern has had a player on the All-OVC First Team since Grace Lennox took home the honor for the 2016-2017 season.
The Panthers gear up for the first round of OVC tournament on Thursday against Jacksonville State at 1 p.m.
Oscar Rzodkiewicz can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]