After losing to Campbell in the Big South tournament semifinals, the Longwood women’s basketball team was left with the uncertainty of not knowing if they would receive a postseason tournament bid or not. Fortunately, they were granted an invitation to compete in the Women’s Basketball Invitational, their first tournament appearance under head coach Rebecca Tillett. They were scheduled to take on Loyola Chicago in the opening round on Friday, March 19. Unfortunately, due to a positive COVID case within the team, they were unable to attend the tournament.
Tillett spoke on the team’s reaction to not being able to attend. “They were devastated. But I told them that you have to keep perspective in a time like this. It doesn’t change anything that we were able to accomplish this season.” Tillett went on to add that she was just grateful that the team was able to play basketball this season and that she was proud of the team’s effort.
Tillett also commented on the growth that her team went through on and off the court. “From not even getting to say proper goodbyes after getting abruptly sent home last March, to not knowing if we were going to have a season, to finding out how to set up Zoom, we grew closer as a team. It taught us how to be reflective.”
In just her third season as the head coach at Longwood, Tillett had to face the challenge of leading a team through a pandemic while still focusing on competing for a conference title. Tillett spoke about all of the lessons that this unique season has taught her. “The challenges were many. It was weird to have to stand six feet apart from my players while they were getting tested just so that they could practice. So many sacrifices were made by everyone involved. It taught me perspective and to be thankful for every day that we get.”
Tillett mentioned several players that stood out to her this season and how they helped the team. “Akila Smith was so consistent and also a surprise. I was surprised by the leap she was able to take from one year to the next and become a first-team all-conference player. Akila has a way of doing everything that is asked of her. Kyla McMakin was the leading scorer in our league and I was impressed by how she developed as a leader. Tra’Dayja Smith doesn’t get the credit she deserves as a point guard, but everyone on this team knows that she runs everything on the floor.”
With only four seniors on this year’s team, Tillett said that she looks forward to returning most of the impact players from this past season as well as adding some new faces. The team has increased its number of wins each season under Tillett and in 2020-2021, posted its first winning record under Tillett by finishing 14-11. The team led the Big South in free-throw percentage, rebounding offense and blocked shots.