Posted by Press Democrat Staff Writer Michael Coit:
Becoming a frequent flyer on California’s collegiate Division II basketball circuit wasn’t Stephanie Barnes’ plan, but her landing at Sonoma State proved a smooth end to the ride.
The onetime Analy standout led the Seawolves in scoring during her senior season, providing leadership to a young team that ultimately was denied a spot in their league playoffs on a coin flip.
While disappointed with missing the postseason, Barnes takes away many highlights from her two years with the Seawolves. This season’s included making the All-California Collegiate Athletic Association Second Team.
Individual accomplishments aside, Barnes was a team player who helped the Seawolves improve and win. One play this season illustrated her unselfishness – Barnes passed up a shot and assisted on the game winning 3-pointer to beat rival Chico State in overtime at home.
“We were young, but overall the experience and chemistry was there. It was fun. I love my team,” Barnes said.
Yet there was a time Barnes was ready to give up basketball.
Barnes left Dominican College following her freshman year after the women’s coach at the San Rafael school was fired.
While she bounced back at Cal State San Bernardino, where Barnes started for the Coyotes’ as a sophomore, life then took an even more difficult turn. Barnes moved back to Sonoma County after the death of her father.
“I didn’t think that I was going to keep playing after San Bernardino,” she said.
Then one summer day Barnes was shooting baskets at Analy High School, where she earned honorable mention All-Empire basketball honors. Barnes found her love for the game had not waned.
“As soon as I got into the gym and felt it, I knew basketball was the only thing that was going to pull me through,” she said.
With two years of eligibility left, Barnes started over again and played a pair of consistently solid seasons for the Seawolves.
Barnes made an immediate impact as a junior. She tied for second on the team in scoring at 7.9 a game and was third in rebounding, pulling down four per contest.
Sonoma State struggled and finished 9-18. Barnes worked to help improve the team this season.
Joined by fellow senior Jennifer Russo and junior Oly Larkin, she was a leader both in the score sheet and on the bench for the young Seawolves.
Barnes led the team at 8.3 points per game and was second in rebounding with 5.1 a contest. She also was outspoken to keep other players involved in games.
“On the court it was just keeping everyone picked up. During timeouts we talked to the team and tried to get them pumped up,” Barnes said. “There was a lot of frustration and we had to put it aside more than them and keep it positive.”
Sonoma State’s streaky season had the Seawolves at 5-8 before a three game winning streak put them in playoff contention.
One of those wins was the 67-66 thriller over Chico State. Jaclyn Bisordi’s 3-pointer at the buzzer was the winner. That the ball was in her hands was due largely to Barnes’ work.
Getting the ball on the left wing, Barnes drove the baseline and was poised to take the possible game-tying shot.
“I could have taken the shot, but I heard Jac calling for it, turned around and kicked it out and watched her make it,” said Barnes, ever the competitor. “I didn’t want to go into another overtime with them.”
After splitting the next two games, Sonoma State faded to finish 11-16. But the Seawolves were still tied for the final CCAA playoff spot – until the coin flip.
“We were all pumped and having fun and then we get a text from our coach saying, ‘Sorry guys, we’re not in it.’ It was a heartbreaker,” Barnes said.
Playing well enough to stay close, but not putting together enough wins was frustrating for Barnes. Still, she sees the past season as a building block for the Seawolves.
“I definitely think that they will have a great season next year,” she said.
Barnes will be around to cheer on the Seawolves. The sociology major has another year of classes to complete her degree.
Teaching or counseling could be in her future. Basketball will be, she said.
“I want to stay around basketball through coaching, definitely,” Barnes said.