By Jill Stinson/Assistant sports editor
The women’s basketball team ended its season only one win away from OVC tournament championship over spring break when they fell 65-51 to the No. 1 seed Austin Peay. The sixth-seeded Lady Colonels ended the year with a 15-15 record. “We didn’t play at the highest level all year, but we did when it counted,” head coach Larry Inman said.
This was just the second time a six seed has made it to the OVC finals. Senior guard Katie Kelly was named to the All-Tournament team for Eastern Kentucky. Kelly, who poured in 30 points in Friday’s semifinal against Tennessee Tech, finished with 18 points and a team-high seven rebounds in the loss to Austin Peay.
Kelly wrapped up her career at Eastern as the all-time career free-throw percentage leader, second all-time in assists, fourth in scoring and eleventh in steals. Omni McCluney, Alicia Binion and Leigh Carr will also end their careers as Lady Colonels with impressive contributions.
After posting a 46.4 percent field-goal percentage in the first half, the Lady Colonels struggled on offense and managed just 23.3 percent from the field in the second half. The Lady Govs out-rebounded Eastern 42-31, including 28-19 offensive boards.
Freshman Fatai Hala’api’api finished with eight points and three blocked shots to add to her single-season record, giving her 51 for the season and moving her to fifth on the career list at Eastern. Junior Candis Cook added seven points and was one shy of a career-high with six assists, all in the first half. Junior Pam Garrett chipped in with five rebounds and four points in the loss.
As the Lady Colonels wrapped up their season, they will continue to watch many of the teams they faced throughout the season keep playing.
“This is the toughest schedule we’ve ever had in the history of women’s basketball at Eastern,” Inman said.
Seven teams from the Lady Colonel schedule are participating in the post season tournament. This is evidence of the type of competition Eastern played this season, according to Inman.
Because of the toughness they had faced all year, Inman said the Lady Colonels knew they were capable of beating everyone in the conference.
“Our kids refused to loose. They decided they didn’t want their season to be over,” Inman said.
However, in the end, the Lady Colonels ran out of energy after having been on the road for more than a week.
The way Eastern finished this season should be a preview of what is to come next year.
“We have a good nucleus of kids coming back,” Inman said.
Even though the Lady Colonels are losing several players who played big roles in the program, Inman knows the returning players will step up and fill the gaps. The Lady Colonels will get a full recruiting class in the coming year, and Inman said he hopes some of those players can come in and contribute right away.