Six seniors set precedent for basketball program’s culture

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Six seniors set precedent for basketball program’s culture

Photo by Elena Fiegen

Photo by Elena Fiegen

Photo by Elena Fiegen

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In the middle of Sunday’s postgame press conference, Natisha Hiedeman took a long pause, Danielle King put a hand on her shoulder and Hiedeman let tears stream down her face.

That emotion came after a 78-76 loss to No. 4 – seeded Texas A&M. It ended the seniors’ four-year careers at Marquette, which included a transformation of Marquette women’s basketball into the upper echelon of collegiate women’s basketball.

“I just had a lot of fun at Marquette. It was way more than just basketball here. I had amazing coaches, and I have my sisters,” Hiedeman said. “Even though Marquette is over with us right now, I know we’re still going to stay together and still going to be the best of friends. I thank Marquette for everything, not only basketball, but for giving me a whole other family.”

Head coach Carolyn Kieger said this group of seniors has a special place in her heart. It’s the first class at Marquette she solely recruited.

“This senior class has meant so much to us, our program, myself, (and) my staff,” Kieger said. “I hate that it had to end this way for them, I really do. … They have definitely taken this program farther than we’ve ever been. They’ve set the standard.”

Throughout their four years, Hiedeman and King, alongside Allazia Blockton, Erika Davenport, Amani Wilborn and Sandra Dahling, have proved to be the most accomplished class in program history.

This class finished with one BIG EAST Tournament championship, one outright regular-season BIG EAST title, a combined 24 All-Conference honors, three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, two NCAA Tournament wins and the program’s first ever top-10 rank in the Associated Press Poll.

“We’ve always dreamed of being a top-10 team,” Blockton said. “Becoming a top-10 team was surreal. For people to consider us a powerhouse, it’s just a dream come true.”

The class also had five 1,000-point scorers.

“(The seniors) have set the mark,” Kieger said. “Now it’s up to all of us to keep working towards it to get this program where we want to go, and that’s a national contender every year.”

Every single senior said her favorite moment was winning the BIG EAST Tournament at the Al McGuire Center in 2016.

The seniors described their experience with words like exciting, special, thrilling, “swaggy” and a learning experience. Wilborn said Marquette basketball was life-changing.

“We set a goal, and we chased it,” Wilborn said.

Davenport said she’ll miss the program.

“It’s a great program, that’s what I’m going to miss,” Davenport said. “I have great teammates (and) great coaches.”

Now the seniors are hoping the winning culture they created stays at Marquette.

“When we first got here – since we were all young – we were afraid to tell each other the truth,” Blockton said. “But now I think we’ve grown as players and we’re able to tell each other, ‘Hey, you need to work harder.’”

Underclassmen labeled this group of seniors as fun, energetic, competitive, special and how they are a family. Altia Anderson even commented on how close the group has become because of how much time they spend off the court together.

“We just have to bring that chemistry to the team next year,” junior guard Isabelle Spingola said.

Even playing only one year with the senior class, freshman forward Chloe Marotta has experienced the benefits of playing with the group.

“They’re great leaders on the court and they know a lot about the game,” Marotta said. “They all like to have fun, but at the same time, they’re very competitive and they work very hard to get there. They bring a ton of energy to the team and without them we wouldn’t know (or) be at all where we are right now.”

Although the senior class won’t be suiting up again the Golden Eagles, the hope is for its legacy to set the precedent for years to come.

“We just talked in the locker room for the underclassmen to carry the torch on,” Kieger said. “(The seniors) made this (organization) a better place and I am so thankful that I was able to coach them and they represent Marquette with class, integrity and heart every single day.”

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