Last season, UB graduated a trio of seniors who all took different paths to senior day. In Margeaux Gupilan, it was four years of experience and the end to one of the better point guard careers in school history. In Jenna Rickan, senior leadership from a local star who
got her senses about her came to Buffalo from Syracuse soccer. And in Cherridy Thornton, a forward transfer who had one productive year and one lost mostly to injury.
Today, women's hoops fans will once again see three players honored in Senior Day festivities. If you haven't picked up on this year's theme, the last regular-season game in Alumni should hit you over the head with it: UB's strength this season has been in the frontcourt.
Sometimes they've not played to that strength, but I for one wouldn't mind the ball getting to Kristen Sharkey every possession. There's no doubt, even though Cassie Oursler and Courtney Wilkins will add some size to the lineup next November, that the team's going to look very different.
Christa Baccas - Center - Hillburn, NY
Senior Stats: Christa has had a steady season, bringing eight points and eight rebounds a game and adding her customary handful of blocks. Notably over the first three seasons of her career, the 6'2" defender has added some grit on the offensive boards, pulling down nearly a full extra offensive rebound per game over her career average.
Before UB: Christa was a heavily-recruited prospect who received regional recognition not just for basketball, but also her volleyball exploits. In her senior year she averaged a double-double to go along with nearly five blocks and three steals a game, led her team to a conference title, was named Outstanding Female Athlete of the Year for her high school, and was named All-Section.
UB Career: Christa has been a steady player for three years as a Bull, doubling her minutes from the year prior as a sophomore and quickly establishing herself as a lockdown post defender. A foot injury cost her a few games this year in nonconference play that might have helped her catch Kourtney Brown for the all-time UB blocks record, but she's comfortably in second after a great defensive career.
Senior Moment: This is a tough one for me, because several of Baccas' best games of the season came in losses. For sheer, all around productivity, Christa has never been better than in the recent loss to Miami. That game might end up costing UB a bye, but not because of Christa, who put together one of the best lines any Bull has had this season: 12 points, 11 rebounds, 4 blocks, 3 steals, and 2 assists. Not one of those numbers is a season high, but it's the most well-rounded performance of the year for the senior.
Ayana Bradley - Forward - Brooklyn, NY
Senior Stats: Ayana's seen an uptick in minutes in MAC play, the lone bench forward after the midseason departure of Rachael Gregory. Her 2.0 ppg number is misleading for all the times she got nominal minutes in the first half of the season, but she's been especially valuable on the boards, averaging just under four rebounds a game in her nine MAC appearances.
Before UB: This is only Ayana's second season with the Bulls after the forward started her career at Monroe Community College, where she averaged nearly 10 points and 9 rebounds a game in 22 starts. In high school she was named third-team all-Central New York.
UB Career: A forward during a time of extreme forward strength, Bradley has never been able to crack the lineup beyond much of a substitute's role, but has raised her numbers across the board as a senior. Even at only 12 minutes a game in MAC play, it's hard to imagine what this team would look like without her this year after Rachael Gregory left.
Senior Moment: How could it be anything but UB's first game without Rachael Gregory? Technically, UB was without the redshirt forward for the WMU loss, but the Ball State game that followed was the first we knew about it, and the first in which Ayana got in the lineup.
Against the team that will almost certainly claim the #2 seed in the MAC, Bradley was a force, putting up a line that typifies her year and importance to the team; in just 17 minutes she racked up 5 boards and 4 steals to go with 4 points. I could have very easily picked Buffalo's win over NIU two games later (7 points, 6 boards, 2 steals), but the importance of a strong game right after Gregory's departure can't be overstated.
Kristen Sharkey - Forward - Manahawkin, NJ
Senior Stats: Much like Baccas, Sharkey has been pretty much the same player over the last three years, though her overall numbers took a jump with her minutes between her sophomore and junior seasons. This year, she's slightly more of a minutes eater than last, and has lost a couple ticks on her 2FG%, but has made up for it with increased effiency from outside. Even with more attention thanks to the loss of Gregory and diminished production from Mackenzie Loesing, she's matching last year's 14+ ppg and pulling down 8 boards a night while upping her assists and steals numbers.
UB Career: As strong as #RIGHTSHARK has been this year, it's a notable season only in Sharkey's increased consistency. Last year she went off for a few big games but was also liable to stay in single digits. This year, almost every game she takes over a stretch and dominates. Still, she was productive enough after sitting out a year to currently sit at 1,191 career points, good for eighth-all time at UB.
Before UB: Kristen finished her high school career #2 in all-time scoring and #1 in all-time rebounding at Southern Regional. In her senior year she averaged 22 points and 11 rebounds a game before being names Press of Atlantic City Player of the Year.
Senior Moment: There are so many options! But I have to go with UB's complete dissection of Canisius shortly after Christmas. I'm actually surprised upon looking at this again that #RIGHTSHARK only had 26, (only, he says) because I got to see this game in person and yell at the refs like a total jerk because I wasn't on press row and Sharkey was completely unstoppable. Completely unstoppable. 10-14 from the floor, and three of those misses were from three. She only pulled down nine boards, but that's because she was sharing with everyone else. It was a great game, and it came against
Of course, the other great Sharkey moment this year wasn't Kristen's doing. I've felt somewhat bad that "Shark" is such an easy nickname (but Jaws .gifs are so fun), but we really got post-Super Bowl.
#RightShark has three regular season games left. Let's see what happens.
It's been a really bumpy road for Women's Hoops this year, but today is about today, the game against Akron, and these three players, two of whom will finish in the top ten all-time at UB in multiple categories, and one who has been a needed salve for the second-half hole in the lineup.
Thank you, Christa, Ayana, and Kristen, and best of luck in the future. #ForeverABull