Throughout Columbia College’s season, coach Mike Davis has repeatedly said Charliss Ridley looks great in blue and silver. Apparently, the other American Midwest Conference coaches agreed.
Ridley, a junior forward, was named the AMC’s Most Valuable Player after the Cougars’ 87-79 win against McKendree (Ill.) in the AMC Tournament final on Monday at The Arena of Southwell Complex.
Ridley scored a school-record 37 points on 12-of-19 shooting and was also named the AMC’s Newcomer of the Year.
The No. 17 Cougars (27-7) became the first team in school history to go undefeated in the AMC season and win the conference tournament. The win gives the Cougars an automatic spot in the NAIA Tournament and extends their school-record winning streak to 19.
The NAIA Tournament begins on March 17 in Jackson, Tenn.
Ridley, who transfered from Missouri in May, said winning the MVP was never a goal, especially coming off reconstructive knee surgery on Aug. 13. Ridley tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee during the Show-Me State Games on Aug. 2.
“I like to set goals for myself, but when I came back from injury I couldn’t really do that because I didn’t know how I was going to react,” she said. “I knew I worked hard in rehab, but rehab and playing are two different things.
Davis said Ridley’s play was no surprise to him.
“That is what we expected her to do,” he said. “Good players, they deliver in big ballgames.”
Junior guards Tiffany Foote and Lisa Kowalewski joined Ridley on the All-Conference squad, LeAnn Fossum made Honorable Mention All-Conference and Davis won AMC Coach of the Year for the third straight season.
Foote, the Cougars’ starting point guard, efficiently guided the Cougars’ offense to a 53.3 percent shooting performance. She had 13 assists and just one turnover.
“One of the things I focused on before the game was taking care of the ball,” she said. “Making good decisions, I know that is one of the things I’ve had trouble with the last few games.”
The No. 22 Bearcats (25-8) kept the score within reach until the final seconds by patiently working the ball inside and grabbing 21 offensive rebounds.
The Bearcats’ inside players were a difficult matchup for the Cougars. Alli Arppe had 17 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, and Miesha Billups had a game-high 15 rebounds.
Sheila Hering led the Bearcats with 25 points, including four 3-pointers.
The Cougars’ Mindy Mitchem made scoring much more difficult in the second half, recording six of her career-high eight blocks after intermission. She also had eight blocks in the Cougars’ 76-60 win against the Bearcats on Feb. 28.
“I get real hyped up for the McKendree game,” she said. “I didn’t forget about my freshman year when they beat us here on my home court. I was definitely thinking about that tonight, and I wasn’t going to let them do it again.”