Immediate Release: March 10, 2004
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Conover named America East Conference Coach of the Year; Laws, Townley and Wegwerth named all-conference
HARTFORD, Conn.--Rich Conover, who is in his first full season as the women's basketball head coach, has been named the America East Conference Coach of the Year while sophomore guard Rachel Laws (Wyncote, Pa./ Cheltenham), senior point guard Kate Townley (St. Paul, Minn./ Cretin-Derham Hall) and senior forward Leala Wegwerth (Maplewood, Minn./ Roseville) each earned all-conference honors. The voting was done by the 10 coaches in the conference.
Conover earned the honor by guiding a Binghamton team that was picked to finish eighth in the conference in the preseason coaches' poll to a No. 2 seed in the upcoming America East Conference Tournament. The Bearcats tied Boston for second place with a 12-6 conference record but won the season series against the Terriers to gain the second seed. Overall, Conover guided the Bearcats to a 17-9 regular season record with non-conference wins over St. John's, Hofstra, North Texas, Montana State and Lehigh.
"I'm honored to receive this award because there are a lot of outstanding coaches in the America East Conference," Conover said. "This award is shared by our coaching staff, which I feel is one of the best in the conference, as well as by our players, who made it a very memorable year for me. They were very easy to coach this year."
"Rich is a great person who has done a wonderful job of leading our team this season," Athletic Director Joel Thirer said. "We are delighted to see that his peers recognize the great job he has done this season."
Laws was named first-team all-conference, marking the first time in her two-year career that she has been selected all-conference. She led Binghamton with a career-high 14.7 points and 7.1 rebounds per game and was named the America East Conference Player of the Week for Feb. 22-28. In addition, she has reached double figures in scoring the past 23 games, which is the longest current streak in the America East Conference.
Laws is the second Binghamton player ever to be named first-team by the America East Conference. Sarah Cartmill was named both first-team all-conference as well as the Player of the Year in 2002.
"Rachel has had a breakout year," Conover said. "She is an excellent defender who finds a variety of ways to score points. She has definitely been our go-to player this season."
Townley was named third-team all-conference for the third year in a row. She led the conference with 4.8 assists per game, marking the third straight season that she has been the conference's assist leader. In the last five games alone, she has averaged 10.8 points, 9.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists.
"Without Kate's leadership on the floor, we would not have been able to be a number two seed heading into the tournament," Conover said. "She made a lot of key plays for us duirng our conference games."
Wegwerth was also named to the third team, marking the the first time in her career that she has been selected all-conference. She second on the team with 10.2 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. Her career high of 22 points came against Hartford on March 3.
"Leala showed as much improvement as anyone on the team this season," Conover said. "She was a very solid performer this season and was instrumental to our success.
As the No. 2 seed in the America East Tournament, Binghamton will face the winner of the Northeastern-UMBC first round game on Thursday at 2:30 p.m. in the quarterfinals. Northeastern and UMBC square off at 7 p.m. on Wednesday night. The entire tournament will take place in Hartford.
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