COLUMBIA — Wednesday night's women's basketball game at The Arena at Southwell Complex featured two programs that are in completely different places.
For No. 24 Columbia College, the opening-round game in the American Midwest Conference Tournament was the first of what it hopes will be several more victories as it moves toward a probable berth in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics championship tournament.
For Stephens College, it was the final loss of a season in which its young roster won only two games.
Stephens College coach Bill Bixon said the 96-51 loss was a valuable experience for the young team.
"We're not measuring our success right now against these guys," he said. "They're competing for national championships, and we're just competing to prove that we can compete at this point."
Although the Stars ended their season at 2-27, Bixon said his team had come a long way from the year before. Last season, Stephens was beat by American Midwest Conference foes by an average margin of 35 points; this year, the deficit was reduced to 12.
The Stars graduate only one senior, Megan Sheffield, while the team currently has eight freshmen. Bixon said he was excited to get back in the gym to work on both basketball skills and strength development in the offseason.
"I think we've got a lot of raw, talented freshmen," he said. "They got a lot of experience this year playing against teams that are bigger, faster, stronger."
Meanwhile, the Cougars are looking forward to their AMC semifinal against Park University. At their last matchup, Park beat the Cougars 67-45 in one of only two conference losses for Columbia College this season.
While coach Mike Davis said his team is simply playing to get to another game at this point, his players have revenge on their minds.
"We didn't play very well against them," senior Airelle Eldridge said. "They zoned us the whole game. That was probably our second look against a zone. Now we're ready to go and get a payback game."
Columbia College will be riding the momentum of a game in which five players reached double digits. Eldridge and Ashley Fisher scored 22 points each, while Heather English had 21.
Defensively, the Cougars dominated under the basket, out-rebounding Stephens 44-27.
The Cougars will take on the Pirates at 7:30 p.m. Friday night at The Arena at Southwell Complex.