Two to go- Southeast senior teammates end home schedule today

Saturday, February 22, 2003

They have experienced different levels of success, but the only two seniors on Southeast Missouri State University's women's basketball team both express few regrets regarding their college careers.

Lori Chase and LaShelle Porter will be honored prior to their final regular-season home game today when Southeast (15-9, 9-4) plays Ohio Valley Conference leader Austin Peay (20-3, 12-0) in a 5:30 p.m. tipoff at the Show Me Center. The Otahkians are in third place and will likely host a first-round OVC Tournament game on March 4.

"It seems like I just got here, and it's been four years," a grinning Chase said. "I'm happy with what I've done. I've enjoyed my basketball here."

Said Porter, "I'm content, very content. I'm satisfied with the four years I've played."

Chase, a 5-foot-11 forward, has had by the far the more distinguished career of the two as one of the OVC's top players the past three seasons. She's making a strong push to lead the Otahkians in scoring for the third year in a row.

A product of Rosary High School in St. Louis, which she helped lead to a state title in 1998, Chase entered this season with a Southeast career scoring average of 13.2 points per game.

After a freshman season that saw her start 12 times and average 8.5 points, Chase has been a fixture in the Otahkians' lineup the past three years, starting every game.

Chase averaged 14.7 points and 6.7 rebounds as a sophomore to make the all-OVC team and 16.5 points and 6.3 rebounds last year to be second-team all-OVC. This season, on a more balanced squad, Chase averages 13.4 points and six rebounds to lead both categories.

"For me, the highlights have been just playing college basketball," Chase said. "That was always my dream, so I got to live my dream."

As a sophomore, Chase set an OVC record for most free throws made in a game when she connected on 23 of 25 against Tennessee State. She is the Otahkians' fourth-leading career scorer with 1,419 points and has a solid chance of finishing in third place. Chase is also sixth all-time in 3-pointers with 63.

Porter, a 5-5 guard from Evansville, Ind., has had a less spectacular career, but a solid one nonetheless.

After sitting out as a redshirt during her first college season, Porter was a key contributor off the bench as a freshman, averaging 5.7 points.

Porter started every game during her next two seasons, averaging 9.6 points as a sophomore while ranking second on the team in assists with 68 and leading in steals with 60, then averaging eight points last year while recording team highs in assists with 95 and steals with 72, the latter figure ranking second in the OVC.

Porter has seen her playing time diminish considerably this season under first-year coach B.J. Smith and she has made just nine starts while averaging 3.9 points. Her assists and steals also are down significantly, with 38 in each category.

But ever the team player, a smiling Porter said, "I wish I'd played a lot more, but I just want to do anything I can to help the team."

Despite not playing as much this year, Porter ranks third in career steals at Southeast with 198 and is ninth in assists with 261.

"For me, the highlights of my career are all the friends I've made," she said. "I'll have those friends for the rest of my life."

Smith expresses considerable appreciation and admiration for the effort Chase and Porter have made to conform to changes in the program he instituted after taking over for the retired Ed Arnzen.

"They're the only two who played last year who are back this year, and it's harder on them than everybody else," Smith said. "They've done things different in the past, and it's a tough situation, but they've handled it real well. I'm really proud of them for that."

Chase and Porter, who are close friends, acknowledge that playing for the fiery Smith as opposed to the more laid-back Arnzen has been an adjustment.

"They're definitely different style coaches, and new coaches are always hard to adjust to," Chase said. "But I think I've handled it pretty well,"

Said Porter, "It was a very big adjustment, but I think I've adjusted well."

Chase and Porter both appear to have bright futures after basketball. Chase, scheduled to graduate in December with a degree in criminal justice, wants to work with juveniles in the corrections field. Porter, slated to graduate in May with a degree in sport management, plans to attend graduate school and her goals are to get into event management, first for a college and later for an NBA team.

In the meantime, Chase and Porter figure the Otahkians -- who appear to be headed for one of their best Division I seasons despite having a new coach and virtually a new roster -- can still provide the duo plenty of thrills with the OVC Tournament less than two weeks away.

"My career would been a lot better if we would have won the tournament and made the NCAAs, and we can still do it," Chase said.

Added Porter, "I think we've still got a lot of good basketball ahead of us. We really think we can win that tournament."

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