Skyhawks claim third consecutive OVC title
Published: Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 09:03
After capturing their third straight Ohio Valley Conference championship, the Skyhawks will soon be on their way to their third consecutive NCAA tournament.
For the Skyhawks, this year’s championship was much harder to take home than those of years past. The previous two years, UTM entered the tournament with a first-round bye, only having to win two games to take home the crown. However, this year they were slated to take on Eastern Kentucky in the first round. In that game, the Skyhawks would overcome an early 14-0 deficit to take down the Colonels 78-63.
Next up for UTM were the Panthers of Eastern Illinois, a team they had beaten 82-62 a few weeks prior. The Skyhawks would trail the Panthers most of the game until junior guard Heather Butler hit a game-winning jumper with 4 seconds left to give the Skyhawks the win.
It would be a few hours before their opponent for the championship game would be known. It was down to the winner of Belmont and Tennessee Tech. With the entire UTM team and coaching staff in the stands watching, the Golden Eagles of Tennessee Tech edged past the Belmont Bruins to set up the third straight meeting of UTM and TTU in the championship game.
While the Skyhawks led the entire first half, it looked like the Golden Eagles were finally going to de-throne the two-time champs. With a 72-71 lead with under 15 seconds to play, UTM knew they needed to get four fouls to send TTU to the line, and they did, after the Golden Eagles added another point to their lead, putting them up 73-71.
What happened next would sum up the Skyhawks’ entire season. Down two points, junior guard Jasmine Newsome would take the ball down the court, much like Butler did the day before, and score the game-tying points with 2 seconds left on the clock. A failed buzzer-beater by the Golden Eagles would send the game into overtime.
In her last OVC game, senior forward Rickiesha Bryant scored the first five points of overtime, which would give her a career-high 20 points on the day. Bryant
also finished the game with a double-double in her second straight game. The Skyhawks would ride the wave of momentum they captured from the end of regulation all the way through overtime and come home with an 87- 80 victory.
With the score final and nothing but zeros left on the clock, tears rolled down the faces of every player on the Skyhawks bench and those left on the court. They had overcome the odds. They made the big plays when they needed to, from Butler hitting the game-winning shot against Eastern Illinois to Newsome not only hitting the game-tying shot against TTU in the championship game, but setting an OVC tournament record for most points in tournament history with 98.
In the past two years, the Skyhawks were 0-2 in the NCAA tournament with losses to Duke and Tennessee. While the team will not find out who they play until Monday, March 18, they will be resting and preparing to make a little more noise in the big dance than they have in years past.
To keep up with the Skyhawks and see who they’re going to face on March 18, follow The Pacer on Facebook and Twitter and visit utmpacer.com.
The NCAA Selection Show will be held Sunday, March 17 at 5 p.m. The brackets will be televised at this time.