EKU Women’s Basketball was back in action for the second time in the last three days, as they played third-seeded SIUE in the semi-finals of the OVC tournament. After coming off of an upset against two seed Morehead State, the Colonels were in for another battle—with a chance to play in the OVC championship on the line.
Defense was the story of the first-half, as EKU continued their lock-down D, forcing 11 turnovers and making 6 blocks to hold SIUE to just 21 points on 6 of 27 shooting.
To go along with her three blocks in the first half, Senior Jalen O’Bannon lead the team with 8 points on 50 percent shooting.
As strong as the defense was in the first half, the offense shone in the second half. Despite a struggling game from shooting threat Alexus Cooper, who had just 7 points on 2 of 8 shooting, Shavontae Naylor carried the load in the second half. Naylor exploded for 14 points on 7 of 9 shooting in one her better shooting halves of the season.
“My teammates encouraged me to do it all,” Naylor said. “Keep going, keep attacking and go to the hole, and that’s was boosted me.”
To go along with Naylor’s huge game, Mariah Massengill, who played a team-high 39 minutes, put up 10 points and 4 assists, creating open shots and holes for her teammates.
Perhaps the biggest play of the game came from the hands of Massengill, as EKU was up by just one point. Massengill drove the lane and hit a floater with just nine seconds left to put the Colonels up by three.
“I prayed that one in,” Massengill said. “It was big time and we needed it. Nothing I can say except I shot it up there, closed my eyes, and hoped it went in.”
That shot proved to be the difference maker as Eastern closed out a hard fought win with a score of 61-58.
With a season full of ups and downs, coach Chrissy Roberts and the team said they are ecstatic about getting a chance to play for an OVC title and an NCAA tournament birth.
“I said it the other day, we want to stay and play,” Roberts said. “I’m so proud of the refuse to lose mentality, and we put our heart into every possession.” Coach Roberts said. “It just feels unbelievable to be able to play in the championship game after this season of high and lows”, she added.
After last year’s OVC defeat and two regular season losses, the Colonels have a chance to get revenge on a top-ranked Belmont squad and claim their spot atop the OVC.
“We owe them one,” Massengill said.
Eastern has a chance to complete a week full of upsets tomorrow, as they play for an OVC championship and look to punch their ticket into the Big Dance. Tip is at 2 p.m. in Municipal Auditorium.