WALTHAM — The victory, like the previous 899 in an extraordinary and rewarding coaching career for Barbara Stevens, was the result of meticulous and detailed preparation.
And in her 37th season on the bench, the last 28 at Bentley University, that routine has not changed.
So at 8:30 Saturday morning, roughly two hours before 50 of her former players arrived on campus for the annual alumni game, Stevens and her Falcons, the top-ranked Division 2 team in the country, were working on defending out-of-bounds plays for their matchup against Saint Anselm. That minor detail had not been covered in her carefully crafted two-hour practice session Friday afternoon.
Then her veteran squad, a highly-motivated group featuring seven seniors and grad students, embraced the moment, ringing up a season-high 56 points in the first half on their way to an 18th straight win, a 98-82 Northeast-10 Conference triumph in front of 1,433 at the Dana Center.
“This is a special group, and it is real special to be achieving something like this with them,” said Stevens after her uptempo squad drained 11 three-pointers and shot 61 percent from the floor. “I get the wins, but they are the ones doing the work.”
In doing so, the Falcons presented their beloved coach with career win No. 900, a mark that only five others in the women’s game have attained, all at the Division 1 level: Pat Summit, Sylvia Hatchell, C. Vivian Stringer, Tara VanDerveer, and Jody Conradt. But only Summitt (1,072), VanDerveer (1,103), and now Stevens (1,146) have reached the milestone in fewer than 1,200 games.
“It’s humbling, I put those people in a whole difference category,” said Stevens, who has piled up 743 wins at Bentley after six seasons at Clark (123 wins) and then three at UMass-Amherst (34).
“I’ll be the poor little sister of the group,” she added with a smile. “I am glad where I am. I don’t wish I were anyplace else.”
And Saturday, she was more thrilled to share the spotlight with one of her players, two-time All-American Lauren Battista (20 points in 24 minutes), who soared to the top of the program’s career scoring list.
Entering the game 16 points shy of Kelly Barker’s record (1,800), the 6-foot senior from North Easton posted up for three baskets in a two-minute span before swishing a turn-in jumper in the paint with 1:08 remaining in the first half for Nos. 1,800 and 1,801, eliciting an “LB” chant from the full house.
As she approached the scoring mark, realizing that she and Stevens could hit their respective milestones on the same day, “I thought that it would be amazing to share that special day with Coach,” said Battista, who is also the all-time leading scorer at Oliver Ames (1,667 points).
“And then we could both look back at it as a cool day in Bentley basketball history.”
Battista and teammates Courtney Finn (21 points, seven assists), Jacqui Brugliera (11 points), and Christiana Bakolas have been lucky enough to be a part of career wins No. 800 and 900 for Stevens.
“Considering all the great players that have come through this program, it’s pretty cool and surreal,” said Battista.
Now, 1,000 wins is within sight for the 58-year-old Stevens.
“One game at a time,” she emphasized, before adding, “If I’m lucky enough to still be coaching, and the way I feel at this moment, I enjoy it so much, and as long as Bentley will have me . . . I still love this job.”Craig Larson can be reached at email@example.com.