Okay, I admit it: I’ve been a diehard fan of the Bowdoin College women’s basketball team ever since we moved to Brunswick in 2002. Every year, I attend all the home games and several away games. If I miss an away game, I stream it on my laptop. When games get close, my heart pounds. But I never lose hope, because the team never quits. When I learn the names of the new recruits, I go to the web to check out their high school stats. My good friend David Humphrey (Bowdoin Class of 1961) shares my obsession.  

We talk a lot on the phone during the season — who’s up, who’s down, the last game, the next game, etc. We haven’t shed our shirts and painted our chests with “GO, BEARS!” but we’d do it if necessary to clinch a national championship, modesty be damned. Our wives tolerate our obsessions mostly; in fact, they’re fans as well. That said, they might not bless the bare-chest move. 

Speaking of championships. In March 2004, the Polar Bears played against Wilmington College (Ohio) for the NCAA Division III national championship. They didn’t stream games, back then, so I was standing on the beach on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, on the phone to my friend Clark Truesdell (Bowdoin ’65) who was back in Brunswick. He was listening to the game on the radio and reporting the play-by-play to me.  Bowdoin was up with a few minutes to go but eventually lost 59-53, wrapping up a 30-2 season. 

Last year the team again reached the national final, only to lose to archival Amherst 65-45, concluding a 29-3 season.  

Two weeks ago the team lost again in the national final, this time to a tough Thomas More (Kentucky) team. The score: 81-67; final record: 31-2. 

Whew! That’s a lot of winning. There are 448 American colleges and universities in NCAA Division III, and Bowdoin is the only team to have reached the Final Four in each of the last two years. 

Great teams must have great coaches and Bowdoin has been blessed with two terrific coaches. Stephanie Pemper compiled a fine record of 235-48 over her ten years at Bowdoin before leaving to become head coach at the U.S. Naval Academy, where she’s realized great success. Current head coach Adrienne Shibles has maintained Bowdoin’s winning tradition compiling a 254-65 record over her eleven years at the helm. 

From my perspective, several factors contribute to Adrienne’s success. She’s a great recruiter, attracting star players who want to play for a top team, with emphasis on the word “team.” She seeks team players not prima donnas. And during their years at Bowdoin, the players learn how to be leaders because Adrienne involves them in many key decisions. Many of her former players go on to coach at other schools, a testament to Bowdoin’s stellar reputation for producing leaders.  Former players stay in touch with Adrienne and the team, and they can often be spotted in the stands at important games. 

The team concept is so important that I have deliberately not mentioned the name of any one player, although the Bears have had some true superstars over the years. If I named one, I’d have to list them all. 

I should also note the great spirit of the fans of the Bowdoin women’s basketball team. Bowdoin’s  conference, the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC), is the nation’s top Division III athletic conference, and Bowdoin boasts the largest and most spirited fan base for women’s basketball among NESCAC schools. In fact, Adrienne often cites the huge fan support when recruiting future players. 

What about next year? Well, before this past season began I thought the Bears would be good, but not as good as last year. The team proved me wrong, so I won’t make predictions about the 2019-20 season. But I do know I’ll be there to cheer on the team, every step of the way.  

David Treadwell, a Brunswick writer, welcomes commentary or suggestions for future “Just a Little Old.” [email protected]

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