Sugar Bear Seniors Bid Farewell to Farris Center

Courtesy University of Central Arkansas Athletics Department

Since stepping foot on campus in 2009, this year’s collection of Sugar Bear seniors has put together an astonishing list of accomplishments, many of them coming on their home court in the Farris Center. Coming into a program that had gone just 13-45 in the two seasons before their arrival, they wasted no time in making their mark as they led a highly improbable turnaround and vaulted Central Arkansas women’s basketball onto the national scene.

Saying they wasted no time making their mark is not an exercise in hyperbole. In their very first game at the Farris Center, on Nov. 18, 2009, they re-wrote record books as they dropped a Southland Conference record-tying 119 points in a 60-point win over Ecclesia.

They have hardly slowed down since, winning more than 80 games in all, stringing together what was the nation’s third-longest home winning streak, winning nearly 85 percent of their games at the Farris Center and more than two-thirds of their conference games.

They’ve put up banners and cut down nets, hosted the program’s first Division I national postseason tournament game, broke school attendance records, and greatly muddled the debate on what the greatest win in program history might be.

Now they’ve got just one thing left to do in the Farris Center…

Say goodbye.

They will play their final game at home – where they have won 51 times – on Saturday at 2 p.m. against Oral Roberts, the only team in the league the Sugar Bears have yet to defeat this season. The senior group of Britney Gowans, Megan Herbert, Chantel Moss, Desiree’ Rogers and newcomer Tracey Parsons will be recognized prior to their final performance in front of the Central Arkansas fans that have shown up in droves during their careers.

“It’s hard to think about,” said Moss, a senior from Coolidge, Ariz. who came to Central Arkansas to join her older sister Megan, whose Sugar Bear career wrapped up two seasons ago. “We’ve all been playing basketball for so long, and to think about it coming to an end and playing our last home game ever is really hard to think about. We’ve grown as a team and learned to win in this building. It’s a hard place to give up. You walk in here and it’s a home to you.”

Rogers, who also joined her sister Destinee (now a graduate assistant coach) in a Sugar Bear uniform, will be playing to the home fans for the final time in a career that saw her become just the 22nd player ever in a Sugar Bear uniform to surpass the 1,000-point mark.

Desiree’ Rogers has more than 1,000 points & 600 rebounds in her career as a Sugar Bear.

“It’s kind of sad, I don’t think it’s really hit me yet,” she said. “It’s bittersweet because I’m not ready to be done here, but at the same time I’m kind of ready to get out int he real world and see what it’s about and what it’s got in store for me. It’s been an incredible atmosphere in here. Being around your family and friends, and having so much support has played a big role in our success. It grew with our success and it’s been really fun to be a part of. Even with the stuff that has happened this year, I wouldn’t take anything back. I’m pretty happy with a lot of the stuff we’ve accomplished, but we still have more to accomplish and I’m looking forward to getting to that. But it’s been pretty overwhelming, we’ve accomplished a lot I didn’t think we would, but knew we were capable of. It’s been overwhelming and very humbling.”

Britney Gowans came to Central Arkansas from Dallas despite several other offers, with hopes of being part of building the program up from its low point in its Division I transition and winning championships. But what she and her teammates have been able to achieve has exceeded her expectations coming in.

“I knew we’d probably turn it around,” she said. “Did I think we’d do all of the things we did? No. But I knew we had the potential to do it. It was a matter of us pulling together and getting it done.”

They got it done, time and time again, creating many memories along the way – making choosing just one as a favorite an incredibly difficult task.

Britney Gowans scored a career-high 23 this year vs. Southeastern La. She has led UCA in blocks in 8 games this year, steals 7 times, and assists 6.

“We’ve had a lot of good times in the Farris,” Gowans said. “Now, we’ve had quite a few bad ones this year, but we’ve worked past it and now hopefully we can go to Katy and get this thing done. My favorite memory would be when we beat Alabama and Indiana. A lot of people might say that wasn’t significant, but the way it made us feel was a big confidence boost and I like what it did for the team. Just to see everybody’s faces in here – a lot of people that didn’t think we could do it, it felt good to shock those, and everybody who believed in us, it felt good to make them smile.”

For Rogers, it could be any number of moments – most of them clutch moments.

“My best memories are probably the last-minute shots we’ve had,” she said. “Micah against McNeese (in the double-overtime win last season), BG against Lamar, those are really exciting moments I’ll never forget.”

The high point for Moss was literally a high point – up above the court, where the 2012 Southland Conference Champions banner hangs.

“Hanging that banner last year, that was moving,” she said. “It’s the first banner I’ve hung. It was nice to do it with this group of people.”

It was also nice to cut down the net – without incident.

“I was afraid I was going to fall off the ladder,” she said. “I’m clumsy – everybody knows that.”

The Sugar Bears have one more opportunity to scale a ladder and cut down a net – but that chance will come at the conference tournament in Katy, Texas next week. On Saturday, they will be playing only for seeding, a bit of revenge against ORU, and the chance to go out the same way they came in – victorious.

Chantel Moss had her best game as a Sugar Bear with 10 points & 10 rebounds last season vs. Paul Quinn.

“We want to get this last win, get to Katy, make a run there and go as far as we possibly can,” said Rogers, who was named to the all-tournament team two years ago but went down early in last year’s tournament game against Nicholls with a torn ACL. “We’ve got to play together, play defense, get the ball where it needs to be. At the end of the day, it has to do with everybody coming to the table, playing together, people stepping up when others aren’t playing as well.”

Playing together should come natural to these Sugar Bears, with these seniors having been through 120 games together. And after all the battles, the many triumphs and few defeats, they’ll play together in their home arena for the final time on Saturday.

“We were all young, came in and grew up together,” Gowans said. “I feel like I’ve made some lifelong friends. I grew a lot, learned how to be a team player even when I’m not on the court. Learned how to do other things, and how to be a leader.” 

“It’s been great,” Rogers said. “I knew we had a lot of good players coming in – I had played with and against a few of them – and I expected us to do well, but not as well as we did. It’s a good feeling to do better than what you thought you would. I don’t really think I would want another group of people to be seniors with. We’ve been through a lot, grown a lot together, they’ve been a great group to play with and I really will miss them all.”

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