Redhawks women’s basketball defeats Tennessee Tech for first OVC Title and NCAA berth
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – (Saturday, March 4, 2006) The Redhawks women’s basketball magical season will add a new chapter to not only this season but the program’s record books as they defeated arch-rival Tennessee Tech, 71-50 in the Championship game of the 2006 O’Reilly OVC Women’s Basketball Tournament at the Gaylord Entertainment Center in Nashville, Tennessee. The win sends the Redhawks to their first NCAA Division I Tournament appearance in their rich history as they earned the automatic berth by virtue of the win.
The No. 2 seed Redhawks (22-8) turned what was a tough-scrappy defensive game in the first half to an offensive rout. The No. 1 seeded Golden Eaglettes (22-8) held a one-point advantage 32-31 at the half giving everyone in attendance the impression of yet another classic battle between the two OVC regular season co-champions.
However that was not the case, after the Golden Eaglettes opened the second half with a 5-0 run to grab their largest lead of the game, 37-31 at 18:02. The Redhawks responded with a 19-1 run over the next six and half minutes capped by a Katrisha Dunn (Dallas, TX/Eastern Oklahoma State College) three-pointer to make it 50-38.
OVC Player of the Year Emily Christian converted on a three-point play to cut the lead back into the single digits, 50-41 but that would be the closest the Golden Eaglettes would come as they were held without a field goal until a Deanna Apple lay-up at the 5:20 mark. By then the Redhawks had put the came out reach grabbing their largest lead of the game, 69-46 on an ankle-breaking lay-up by Simone Jackson (Kingston, Jamaica/Southeastern Illinois CC) with 1:55 left.
The Golden Eaglettes made only six field goals in the second half (three by Christian) and held to 18 second-half points as the Redhawks defensive pressure forced them to a 23-percent shooting half including 12-percent from three-point range.
After be held to only 15 first-half rebounds the Redhawks finished with 43 rebounds including 18 on the offensive end. The Golden Eaglettes only managed 12 rebounds in the second half and 26 in the game.
“Our defense was the key to the victory,” commented Head Coach B.J. Smith. “We kept them off the boards and I thought our shot selection was better in the second half.”
The Redhawks shot 50-percent in the second half including 50-percent from three-point range after being held to 41-percent in the opening half.
The first half was a back-and-forth affair as it featured 10 lead changes and five ties. It was an also a battle of the last two OVC player of the Years as Christian and Tatiana Conceicao (Sao Paulo, Brazil/Western Nebraska CC) showcased their offensive skills.
The Redhawks held an early 11-6 lead thanks to a Conceicao three-pointer and a lay-up. Christian answered with two three-pointers of her own and a jumper as the Golden Eaglettes jumped ahead 17-13. The Redhawks went on a 13-4 run to grab yet another five-point lead, 26-21 capped by a Conceicao jumper. Christian made yet another three pointer and later a jumper to tie the game at 26-all. The team’s exchanged baskets until a Kendall Cavin lay-up gave the Golden Eaglettes 32-31 lead heading into half.
The Golden Eaglettes shot 58-percent in the first half including 60-percent from three-point range.
The Redhawks made the Golden Eaglettes pay for their mistakes as they turned 13 Golden Eaglette turnovers into 23 points. They also took advantage of their second-chance opportunities outscoring them 17-2.
Conceicao recorded her sixth double-double of the season with game-highs of 28 points and 13 rebounds. She was key on defense with two blocks and two steals.
Jackson finished with 10 points on 5-11 shooting. She chipped in six rebounds (four offensive) and a team-high three assists. Her biggest contribution was on the defensive end as she again shutdown the Golden Eaglettes No. 2 scoring option Cavin, holding her to two points and limiting her looks to four shots in 36 minutes of action.
Lachelle Lyles (Chicago, IL/Shelton State CC) was just as key defensively as she helped shutdown Christian in the second half. She finished with nine points on 4-4 shooting and 10 rebounds (eight on the offensive end).
Christian scored 18 of her team-high 26 points in the opening half as she was held to 3-12 from the field in the second half. She finished 10-25 (4-5 from three-point range) in 38 minutes of work. She led the team with seven rebounds.
“Lachelle (Lyles) was huge for us in the second half,” said Conceicao. “HSe made Christian work for every shot down the stretch.”
Apple was the next leading scorer with nine points on 4-4 shooting. Only five Golden Eaglettes scored baskets in the game.
Conceicao was named the Tournament’s Most Valuable Player and Lyles was named to the All-Tournament team.
Next for the Redhawks is the 2006 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament against a highly-ranked undetermined opponent. That opponent, location and time will be announced on Sunday, March 12 on ESPN. Please check back with gosoutheast.com for more information regarding the election show and the upcoming trip to the NCAA Tournament.
Conceicao said it best after the win. “It feels great, plain and simple…we’re going dancing!”
Yes you are Conceicao and the Redhawks women’s basketball team and their fans will be joining you.