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Lobach Earns Conf. Player Of Year; Shani, Reed, Miller Honored
Posted: 2/28/2008
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Senior Nikki Lobach and head coach Mike Miller share a hug during a ceremony honoring Lobach's 1,000 career points earlier in the season.

Annville, PA — Though the Messiah College women’s basketball 2007-2008 season is far from complete, the MAC Commonwealth Conference honored three individuals and the program leader Thursday, announcing its all-conference and post-season awards.

Senior Nikki Lobach was voted MAC Commonwealth Player of the Year for the second straight season, while junior Silalei Shani joined Lobach with first-team honors. Senior Amy Reed was voted to second-team all-conference accolades, while head coach Mike Miller picked up his second straight coach of the year honor and fifth overall.

While plentiful, the awards seemed fitting for a team that ran the table on league competition — compiling a perfect 10-0 regular-season conference mark — while concluding its eighth straight season of being undefeated in regular-season home league games, a streak now standing at 40 consecutive contests.

“It’s always nice to be respected by your peers in this way, and we are very humbled by the awards,” Miller said. “Trying to attain awards are not what we’re in this for, but we are always grateful. We have some very deserving young people here.”

Among those is Lobach, who became the first Messiah player since 2003 graduate Christina Vouriotis to win consecutive MAC Commonwealth Player of the Year honors. Lobach led the league in scoring (16.8 points per game), was third in field goal percentage (55 percent) and sixth in assists (2.54 per game), finishing as the conference’s seventh best free throw shooter by percentage (77.4 percent) — all while taking nearly twice as many charity tosses as any other player in the top 15.

Lobach has led Messiah in scoring in 15 of the team’s 26 games on the year, scoring 20 or more points on eight occasions. She recorded a season-high 27 points against both DeSales University (Dec. 8) and the University of Scranton (Nov. 28), helping the Falcons to a 76-8 overall record during her time in uniform.

A transfer from Binghamton University following her freshman year, Lobach’s back-to-back POY honors are bettered only by Vouriotis’ three straight awards (2001-2003). The senior from Hanover, Pennsylvania is also a finalist for the 2007-2008 Jostens Trophy, a national award honoring the most outstanding men’s and women’s Division III basketball players of the year.

“Nikki is one of the most remarkable student-athletes I’ve ever been associated with,” Miller said. “Relative to her ability, she is the most humble person I have ever been around. Nikki is all about team, and we’ve never had anyone more coachable than Nikki. She is respectful and appreciative of authority figures in her life, and her actions have made her a remarkable leader.

“Naturally, it’s an understatement to say we’re going to miss her,” Miller continued. “But what people might not understand is how much we’ll miss what she brings away from the court as well.”

Joining Lobach on the conference’s first-team was Shani, an interesting honor considering the junior from Dakar, Senegal did not start a single game for her own team on the season. Still, Shani led the league in field goal percentage (60.9 percent) and was 13th in scoring (9.4 points per game), charting double-digit point totals 12 times. Her 23 blocks ranked her fifth in the MAC Commonwealth standings, while her career-high 21 points helped the Falcons to a 74-57 win at Lebanon Valley College on Feb. 19.

“Sal’s development as a player helped her to this award,” Miller said. “She came here new to the game, and she just exploded over the course of our conference season. I think she came on as a surprise to a lot of people, which made her numbers all the more impressive.”

And as for a first-team all-conference selection not starting for her own team?

“I think that’s just a testament to her personality,” Miller said. “She just wants to be part of something bigger than herself. Starting isn’t a concern for her, and she just wants to help the team win. We’ve actually done this before with (Vouriotis) as a freshman. We’ve had unique people here, and I’m thankful for that.”

Reed was Messiah’s final selection to earn all-league honors, as the scrappy senior point guard has stood the test of time: Reed has helped the Falcons to a 101-12 overall record during her four years at the institution, appearing in all but two of Messiah’s 113 games during that time.

Reed ranks fourth in the league in assists (an average of 2.96 helpers per game), and has tallied point totals in double figures on nine occasions this season, including Messiah’s last three games.

Her career-high 21 points in a 66-57 win over Albright College on senior night was poignant according to Miller, much like Reed’s first all-conference honor.

“Amy Reed is playing the best basketball of her life and it’s coming at the end of her career,” he said. “I am so happy and proud of her. She has been great for us since day one, and you couldn’t ask for a better finish.”

Miller himself stands on the verge of finishing the ’07-’08 season strong, anyway, as he needs just one more victory to reach the 400 career win plateau.

“(Winning the coach of the year award) was fairly surprising,” he said. “I thought that both (Albright College’s) Janice Luck and (Lebanon Valley’s) Todd Goclowski did a great job with their kids this year. I’m honored and humbled that my peers selected me for the honor.”

Lebanon Valley’s Lori Lidlow, Elizabethtown College’s Erin Walton, Lycoming College’s Andrea Cooper and Albright College’s Annie McMahon joined Lobach and Shani with first-team honors. For a complete list of post-season award winners, click here.

Messiah — ranked sixth in the latest USA Today/ESPN Top 25 Poll and fifth in the most recent D3hoops.com ballot — will next host Lebanon Valley in the MAC Commonwealth Tournament Championship on Saturday. The Falcons are vying for their fourth straight league title and seventh in the last nine years. Game time is set for 2 p.m. in Brubaker Auditorium.