By Ronald Hanaki
Imani Brown from ESU’s Women’s Basketball team recently completed an outstanding season by leading her team to the PSAC Final Four.
Brown scored a career-high 29 points against West Chester on Feb. 11. She was also named the PSAC East Basketball Athlete of the Week three times. At the end of the season, Brown was named to the All-PSAC East First Team.
Brown began playing basketball in the fifth grade, and her career has continued to skyrocket from there.
When it came time to choose a college, the decision wasn’t hard. Brown chose the school where Warriors belong: ESU.
“At ESU, my parents get to come see my games. So that was a big deciding factor,” Brown explained.
As talented as she is, it wasn’t all smooth sailing for Brown. She confessed that her freshman year was tough because Brown played behind legendary guards like Ryann Fiascki and Melissa Poderis, and in turn barely saw the court in her freshman year.
Then Diane Decker became the new head coach during the start of her sophomore season.
“It was a breath of fresh air,” said Brown. “It was a new opportunity for me to play and to show Coach what I can do.”
Brown would enjoy a breakout sophomore season averaging 12.1 points per game.
Last season, the Warriors won five straight games early in the season, but the team would experience some adversity in the middle of the season. The Warriors parted ways with junior forward Rebecca Rutkowski in January, and then senior forward Allison Howard got injured. Unexpectedly, the Warriors were down two frontcourt players.
“I knew that the team needed a boost in the middle of the season,” said Brown. “Everyone had to step up.”
“We needed to pick it up to make sure that we were the top seed in the [PSAC] East,” said Brown.
The Warriors closed with an eight-game winning streak down the stretch of the regular season and finished as the No. 2 seed in the PSAC East.
After posting an 82-53 win over Millersville in the postseason PSAC Tournament quarterfinals, the Warriors faced California’s formidable frontcourt of Shatara Parsons and Seairra Barrett.
“We were well-prepared for the game,” said Brown. “We knew their point guard was out, but we knew they were a hard team to beat.”
“They [California] pressured very well. So our point guards had to move the ball quickly to avoid the press, and we had to get their bigs in foul trouble,” said Brown.
The first half was competitive as expected, and the Warriors led the Vulcans 30-29 at halftime.
However, the Warriors would go 0-5 from beyond-the-arc in the second half.
“I wasn’t hitting my three’s,” said Brown. “I tried to attack more, but my shots weren’t falling.”
“We got a little too relaxed and made bad passes and settled for quick shots,” said Brown.
Nevertheless, the Warriors led the Vulcans 50-47 at the start of the fourth quarter.
“Coming into the fourth quarter, we knew that we couldn’t trade basket-for-basket with them,” said Brown. “That girl [California’s Parsons] kept scoring.”
With the game tied at 69 late in the fourth quarter, California called a timeout with 23 seconds left in the game.
On the ensuing play, Parsons shot a jumper that looked like it was going to rim out, but the ball fell in to give the Vulcans a 71-69 lead.
“We played good defense, but she hit the shot,” said Brown.
Then came the controversial play.
With four seconds left, the Warriors in-bounded the ball to Howard. However, Howard’s legs got tangled, and she fell on the court. ESU’s season came to a crashing end.
Two questions remained from this game. Was Howard tripped intentionally, and was it a foul?
Brown said, “Al [Howard] got the ball, and the [California] girl hooked her a little. She [Howard] fell, and the refs didn’t call it.”
“That’s basketball, but she [the California player] stuck her whole leg out there. If not for that, Al [Howard] would have had an open drive and tied the game, and we would have had overtime,” said Brown.
Brown has put that behind her and is already looking ahead to next season.
“Our freshman backcourt will be better. They now have the experience and are used to the speed and tempo of the game at this level,” said Brown.
“And Aly [Alison Bauman] and Meg [Boryeskne] will have their time to step up. Meg’s a lefty, and Aly’s a righty. So it’s going to be hard to defend them,” said Brown.
Brown is close to a career scoring milestone. She has scored 723 points in her Warrior career.
“I’m close to 1,000 points, so I want to get that next year,” said Brown.
“I feel like I am playing with more confidence since my freshman year,” continued Brown. “It has impacted who I am as a player.”
“I just have to go in and continue to do the work,” said Brown.
Brown credits the coaching staff of Decker and Assistant Coach Marla Simmons for her development as a player.
“It’s been a good experience with Coach Simmons,” said Brown. “We needed a coach who played in the PSACs to help us.”
“She knows what we are going through, so she can help with questions that we have,” said Brown.
Brown said that she liked the addition of Mikelyn Mackavage to the coaching staff.
“She brings a more relaxed vibe,” said Brown. “She makes you laugh at practice, so it’s not serious all the time.”
Like many other student-athletes, Brown likes the bold look of newly renovated Koehler Fieldhouse.
“Coming in, it looks like a better school,” said Brown.
“It definitely makes a difference,” said Brown. “It makes us look more tough.”
Off the court, Brown is a criminal justice major who says that Dr. Michael Pittaro is her favorite professor.
Eventually, Brown wants to be a police detective.
“I want to go to New York and work over there because my dad works over there,” said Brown.
Next season, Brown will be the lone senior on the team.
“It’s my last year, so we want to try to go out on top,” said Brown. “Come out and support us next season.”
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