BARBOURVILLE, Ky. - It was a
game that was there for the taking. And in the end, it was fifth-seeded
Bluefield (Va.) which pushed on through to grab the 104-101 overtime
victory over host No. 4 seed Union Tuesday in the opening round of the
Appalachian Athletic Conference Tournament.
The Lady Bulldogs end the season with a 17-13 overall record, while the Lady Rams (11-18 overall) move on to face top-seeded Tennessee Wesleyan in the semifinal round.
Union led 68-58 following a Courtney Thomas (Glasgow, Ky.) 3-pointer with 11:26 to play. However, Bluefield stormed back pulled even off a Kia Gilliard layup with 4:09 remaining before take an 81-79 lead thanks to two Gilliard free throws at the 3:48 mark.
Bluefield eventually owned an 88-84 advantage with 1:41 left. Kara Pile (Fairdale, Ky.) nailed a 3-pointer to make it a one-point game, but Takieya Rouse free throw gave Bluefield an 89-87 edge with 41 second to go.
Pile came through again with a layup to tie the score at 89-89 with 33 seconds still to go.
With 4 seconds left, Bluefield had chance to grab the win when De'Arra Darling was fouled and sent to the line to shoot two free throws. Yet, both free throws rimmed out. Amber Taylor (Clinton, Tenn.) heaved a 40-footer that bounced off the rim to send the game into overtime.
In overtime, the lead went back and forth as it was tied four times and changed hands three times. A pair of Pile free throws put Union up 100-98 with 1:12 remaining.
After a Lady Ram free throw made it a one-point game, Bluefield took the lead off a Rouse layup with 39 seconds left. Bluefield hit 2-of-4 free throws to stretch the margin to 103-100. Wendi Messer (Barbourville, Ky.) then hit 1-of-2 at the line, making it a two-point game.
Gilliard had an opportunity to ice the game as she went to the line for two free throws with 3 seconds to play. She made the first but missed the second, leaving the margin at three. Pile grabbed the rebounded, raced just past mid-court and heaved a last-second prayer. However, the prayer went unanswered as the shot bounced off the rim, securing the 104-101 Bluefield victory.
Five Lady Bulldogs scored in double figures with Messer leading the way with 24. Pile followed with 23 points as she finished with a double-double as she grabbed 10 rebounds. Taylor knocked in 16 points, Thomas added 14, and Capri Savage (Orofino, Idaho) chipped in 11.
Bluefield also had five players to hit double digits with Gilliard knocking a game-high 25 points. Jasmin Washington followed with 16 points, while Darling and Rouse both posting 15 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Kiara Honore' rounded out the group with 10 points.
As a team, Union shot 42.7 percent (31-of-73 shots) from the field and hit 11-of-23 (47.8 percent) from behind the arc. The Lady Bulldogs connected on 71.8 percent (28-of-39) of their free throws and outrebounded the Lady Rams 55-53. However, Union turned the ball over 21 times, which resulted in 23 points for Bluefield.
Bluefield turned the ball over only 10 times, which only resulted in three points for Union. The Lady Rams hit 42 percent (37-of-88 shots) from the field and 42.1 percent (8-of-19) of their 3-pointers. Yet, where Bluefield struggled was at the foul line as it made just 22-of-40 (55 percent) free throws.
In the other tournament games, Tennessee Wesleyan defeated No. 8 Bryan (Tenn.) 64-53, while No. 2 Milligan (Tenn.) won 69-58 over No. 7 Virginia Intermont and No. 3 Montreat (N.C.) defeated No. 6 Reinhardt (Ga.) 79-67.
As the top-seeded team, Tennessee Wesleyan will host the final two rounds. Milligan will play Montreat Friday at 5:30 p.m. with Bluefield taking on Tennessee Wesleyan at 7:30 p.m. The championship game is set for Saturday at 7 p.m.