February 18, 2009

Lady Govs visit Saturday night as Tech's senior class takes final bow in Eblen Center

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee Tech fans have grown accustomed to their faces, but Saturday night four Golden Eagle seniors play on their homecourt in Eblen Center for the final time.

It's always a bittersweet time when Tech hosts Senior Night for its student-athletes, and Saturday Tech fans say farewell to four outstanding and classy young ladies, including three who have been mainstays in the lineup for four years each.

The four seniors are Rachel Whittle, Allison Price, Meagan Lyons and Blair Bowens. Whittle has been a two-year member of the squad, while Price, Lyons and Bowens have been on the floor since their debut game way back on November 18, 2005.

Their careers started that night with a 71-62 upset victory at Clemson.

Naturally, those seniors want to bow out with a victory, but their task is to beat an Austin Peay team that has risen into the upper division in the conference standings. It's an Austin Peay squad that outlasted Tech for a double-overtime victory last month in Clarksville.

That game was the 80th meeting between Tech and Austin Peay in women's basketball, a rivalry that Tech has dominated with a 66-14 record through the years.

Tech mixed things up at APSU, changing the starting lineup for the first time in 18 games and sprinkling in a whole lot of minutes for five freshmen, and the Golden Eagles almost found the right combination. Almost.

The host Lady Govs escaped with an 83-81 double-overtime victory in the Dunn Center.

Freshmen Tacarra Hayes came off the bench to lead the Golden Eagles. She was the last player to score for Tech in both overtime periods, the first time giving the Golden Eagles a one-point lead with 1:08 remaining before APSU tied it with one free throw. Hayes hit a jumper with 1:19 to go in the second overtime to get the visitors within one point, and she took the final shot of the night in a desperation attempt to reach a third overtime.

Hayes scored a career-best 20 points and had six rebounds and two blocked shots. She was 10-for-11 at the free throw line.

Sophomore Jasmine White's buzzer beater layup sent the game to its first overtime. White finished with 19 points and eight rebounds.

Bowens added 14 points and five assists, while Krystal Stirrup had 13 points. Freshman Kelleshia Cook, playing a career-high 29 minutes, led Tech with six assists and added five rebounds. Lyons chipped in with seven points and 10 rebounds.

Whitney Hanley led APSU with 19 points and six rebounds, while Ashley Herring added 18 points and five boards. April Thomas scored 16 points and grabbed five boards. Brooke Faulkner had nine points and 10 rebounds, while point guard Emily Pollock contributed eight points, seven assists and four steals.

Tech led 34-31 at halftime after the Golden Eagles overcame an early seven-point APSU lead. Tech's largest lead of the night was five points, when Lyons hit a jumper to open the second half and make it a 36-31 Golden Eagle lead.

The score was tied for its 10th time, 55-55, before Stirrup scored nine consecutive points for the Golden Eagles to push Tech to a 58-55 lead with 6:16 remaining. The score was tied again at 62-62 before APSU went on top by four, 68-64, with one minute to play.

White scored Tech's final five points of regulation including a layup with 39 seconds left to make it a one point deficit, 68-67. After Hanley made one free throw with 13 second to go, White grabbed a missed 3-point try by Bowens and put it off the glass as the buzzer sounded to send it to the first extra session.

APSU scored the first three points of the overtime before White scored four in a row for a one-point lead, 73-72. The teams exchanged baskets, with Hayes making it 75-74 before Pollock's free throw with 16 seconds left tied it for a second overtime.

A big 3-pointer by Herring followed a Hayes layup, and put APSU on top to stay, 80-77. The Lady Govs went up 82-78, but Tech continued to battle back. First, Lyons made two free throws to cut it to three, then Hayes dropped in a pair to make it 82-81 with 1:19 to go.

Herring made one free throw for an 83-81 lead with 17 seconds to go, and Tech couldn't get another tying basket.

Gates will open at 6 p.m. for the 7 p.m. game. Tickets are available at the Athletics Ticket Office in Eblen Center, or by calling (931) 372-3940. The Senior Night prsentation will take place at approximately 6:50 p.m.