After the strong finish to their season, it’s odd to think one of the most encouraging moments for the Lander University women’s basketball team came in a loss.
But, according to coach Kevin Pederson, that’s exactly what happened when the Bearcats’ season was ended with a loss against Clayton State in the first round of the Peach Belt Conference tournament.
“After that last game, just the sense in our locker room … there was a very strong sentiment of optimism in that locker room,” said Pederson, who just wrapped up his ninth season as coach of the Bearcats. “I think everyone is very excited about where this team is going. I think by the end of the season, they really started understanding what we’ve been telling them, and we’ve got the potential to really be a contender in this region.”

Pederson didn’t enter the season expecting to have to find optimism after a 12-17 season, Lander’s second consecutive losing season. But, given the way the year looked like it was going to turn out around the season’s halfway point, the strong finish is plenty of cause for excitement.
The Bearcats stumbled through the first half of the season, watching player after player fall by the wayside in a rash of injuries that eventually left them with as few as nine healthy players.
Rock bottom came Feb. 5 in the form of a 75-61 loss at USC Aiken. That loss was Lander’s sixth in a row, dropping them to 3-9 in Peach Belt Conference play and making a berth in the PBC Tournament a pipe dream, at best.