The trio has paced squads that have produced the "winningest" three-year record in the Bearkat women's NCAA Division I annals. Now the three are seeking to be part of Sam Houston's first women's basketball conference title.
After a 64-50 victory over Stephen F. Austin Feb. 20, the women hold their fate in their hands. If they win their final four regular season games they can do no worse than a tie for the 2013 Southland Conference women's championship.
Both the men's and women's teams have clinched berths in the Southland Conference Tournament in Katy March 13-16 that will decide the league's representative in the 2013 NCAA Division I basketball championships. The women can earn one of the top two seeds for the women in Katy.
"Words can't describe what these three young women have meant to this program," Sam Houston head coach Brenda Nichols said. "They've literally put us on the map in NCAA Division I women's basketball."
Each of the seniors has scored more than 1,000 points during their four-year careers. Martin ranks second, Thomas fourth and Smith 14th in all-time Sam Houston scoring. Thomas also is the program's all-time leading rebounder and stands as the only Bearkat woman ever to total 1,000 points and rebounds.
"Britni, Sequeena and Chanice complement each other not only on the floor but away from the gym as well," Nichols said. "They are great people who are leaders on campus athletically, academically and in the community. They're unselfish and team-oriented and play for the name on the front of the jersey."
From 1988 (when Sam Houston moved up to the NCAA Division I level as a member of the Southland Conference) to 2009, the Bearkat women produced only two winning seasons (in 1988 and 1996). The team had earned a Southland tournament post-season berth only once (2004) between the 2001 and 2009 seasons.
Martin, who was a freshman in 2009, missed Thomas's and Smith's freshman season in 2010 due to an injury. The three joined forces in 2011 and the program took off.
"Having to miss my true sophomore season after knee injury was a low point for me," Martin said. "But, looking back, everything turned out for the best. I've gotten to play the last three seasons with Sequeena and Chanice and it's been exciting the things we've accomplished."
Sam Houston posted 17-14 and 18-12 records in 2011 and 2012, respectively, the first back-to-back NCAA Division I winning records ever for the program. The Kats' No. 3 seed at last year's post-season tournament was the team's highest ever. And, following the Southland event, Sam Houston saw its first NCAA Division I post-season play in the Women's Basketball Invitational (WBI).
"Playing in the WBI was great experience for the team, but our goal as seniors is to get to the NCAA tournament," Smith said. "That was a big thrill for us."
Sam Houston State produced its best Southland Conference start ever in 2013, jumping out to a 9-1 start. Entering the final two weeks of action, the Bearkats are in a race with Oral Roberts and Lamar for the top spot in the final standings.
"We played some tough non-conference games in December and knew that experience would help us prepare for conference play," Thomas said. "The Southland Conference has been our focus all along."
"Whatever happens the rest of the way, I'm so proud to have coached these young women. They are going to represent this university and our program so well after they leave," Nichols said. "Britni will go into coaching, Chanice will be pursuing a career in marketing and Sequeena will be in mass communications."
Sam Houston wraps up the 2013 regular season with home games against Nicholls State Thurday Feb. 28 and Southeastern Louisiana March 2 and road visits to Stephen F. Austin and Northwestern State the next week.
The Southland Conference tournament at the Merrell Center in Katy begins Wednesday, March 6, with the finals on Saturday, March 9.