2005-06 Season In Review
The 2005-06 season was a year of unprecedented success for the Air Force women's basketball team, which posted a double-digit win total for the first time ever in its Division I era. The Falcons, which ended the year with a 13-15 overall ledger, also posted a program-best four wins in the Mountain West Conference, sweeping both San Diego State and Colorado State. As a result, Air Force finished the season as the seventh-seed in the conference tournament, losing to eventual MWC champion and Elite Eight participant Utah.
The year began at home with a contest versus in-state rival Northern Colorado. The Falcons led by as many as 12 in the first half before taking a 34-25 advantage at the half, but the Bears rallied back in the second stanza, tying the score, 39-39, with 12:56 on the clock. Though the lead continued to change hands, Northern Colorado went up 57-55 before a late Air Force run put the Falcons up to stay. With six made free throws in the final 40 seconds, Air Force held on for the 67-60 season-opening victory. Sophomore Alecia Steele led the way with 14 points and 11 rebounds for her sixth-career double-double, while Jacki Novak added 10 points in just 14 minutes of action.
Air Force spent its Thanksgiving break on the road, heading to the Beehive State for a pair of contests against Utah Valley State and Weber State. Against UVSC, the Falcons put together a 29-4 run midway through the first half before running away with the 97-70 victory. It marked the highest point total for Air Force as a Division I program, while the team also set a school Division I record for field goals made (32) and field goal percentage (.561). In addition, it marked head coach Ardie McInelly's 100th career win. Sophomore Pamela Findlay paced the Falcons with a career-high 17 points, knocking down five shots from long range, while junior Letricia Castillo (16 pts.), junior Dawn Higginbotham (12 pts.) and sophomore Lauren Henderson (12 pts.) were also in double-figures.
Air Force continued its season-opening road trip with a game versus Weber State. The Falcons overcame 23 free throws from the Wildcats by shooting 53 percent from the field, including 40 percent from long range, en route to the 78-65 victory. Air Force matched its record for field goals made with 32, as Henderson scored a game-high 19 points, while adding a career-best nine assists with just one turnover, to lead the Falcons in their third-straight win. Meanwhile, Steele added 17 points and eight rebounds, Findlay and Higginbotham has 13 points each and sophomore Ellen Jaeschke added 10 points in the game.
With its non-conference road slate under wraps, the Falcons were ready to return home for their final four non-conferencce contests. First up was a meeting with in-state rival Denver. While the Pioneers took a 28-24 lead at the half, the Falcons rebounded with a 17-4 run to open the second half. However, Denver put together another spurt, tying the game at 47-47, before holding on for the 65-59 victory. The Pioneers held a significant edge on the free-throw line, knocking down 13-of-17 attempts, while the Falcons attempted just four foul shots in the game. Steele led Air Force's offense with 14 points and seven rebounds, Findlay added 11 points and six rebounds and Taylor scored 10 points with five rebounds and four assists. In addition, Jaeschke tied a Division I single-game record with five blocks in the contest.
After taking a nine-day break for exams, Air Force was back in action on Dec. 22, as they hosted cross-town rival UCCS. After taking a 33-20 lead at intermission against the Division II Mountain Lions, the Falcons witnessed a second half rally by UCCS, which managed to cut the margin to five points with less than two and a half minutes to play. However, Air Force's defense came up big down the stretch, enabling the Falcons to capture the 68-56 victory, their Division I record-tying seventh of the season. Colorado Springs native Higginbotham led Air Force with a career-best 16 points, seven rebounds and four steals. Steele added 15 points and eight rebounds, Castillo had 12 points and eight rebounds and Findlay added 12 points, five rebounds and three blocks.
Next up was a match-up with service-academy rival Army. After trailing 9-6 early in the game, the Falcons went on a 19-2 run to take the lead and never looked back. Leading as many as 23 points, Air Force cruised to the
73-61 win. The Falcons held the Black Knights to just four offensive boards en route to a 48-25 rebounding margin, and shot 81 percent from the free-throw line. Novak had a career night against the Black Knights, recording her first career double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Steele added 15 points and six rebounds, while Castillo scored 11 points, all in the first half.
Air Force's final non-conference game was against another in-state Division II opponent, Western State. Although the Falcons trailed 5-0 to start the game, they turned it up on both ends of the court to take a 29-13 halftime lead before rolling to the 76-34 victory. The 42-point margin of victory was the most lopsided win in Air Force's Division I history, while the 34 points scored by the Mountaineers set a new opponent low (set earlier against Bucknell). In addition, the Falcons notched a new Division I record for fewest turnovers, finishing with just four turnovers in the game. Findlay and Castillo led Air Force's balanced offense, finishing with 10 points each, while Findlay also added seven rebounds and three assists. Sophomore Jamie Davis and freshman Kory Gladysz added eight points each for the Falcons.
While Air Force's season had a disappointing ending, it was a remarkable year in many senses. In addition to the school-record 13 wins and four conference victories, the Falcons also had many other outstanding accomplishments. Steele, an honorable mention All-MWC selection as a freshman, was named a third-team all-conference selection this season, after finishing as the team's top scorer and rebounder for the second-straight season, and as a result, garned MVP honors once again. Findlay was recognized for her performance both on and off the court, as she was named a CoSIDA Academic All-District second team selection. Jaeschke established a new Division I single-season blocks record with 30, and now ranks sixth on the Falcons' all-time list 56, while Castillo, a two-time team captain, has proven herself one of Air Force's most steady offensive performers, and now ranks 16th on the all-time scoring list at the Academy.
With such amazing accomplishments under their belts, and the bulk of the team returning to do it again next year, the 2006-07 season is sure to be even more memorable for Air Force fans.
Team Captains: Letricia Castillo, Andrea Taylor
All-MWC: Alecia Steele (Third Team)
CoSida Academic All-District: Pamela Findlay (Second Team)
MVP: Alecia Steele
Offensive MVP: Alecia Steele
Defensive MVP: Jamie Davis
Falcon Award: Letricia Castillo
"Attitude is Everything" Award: Andrea Taylor
Strength & Conditioning Award: Andrea Taylor
All-Air Force Classic Team: Letricia Castillo, Lauren Henderson
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For the complete recap of the 2005-06 women's basketball season, including statistics, records, box scores and more, open the attached PDF file...