Golden Eagles shock Eastern Illinois in OVC semifinal overtime win

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Tradition continues. For the 21st time in 31 years, Tennessee Tech has advanced to the championship game of the Ohio Valley Conference women’s basketball tournament.

Third-seeded Tech (17-15) will meet No. 1 seed UT Martin Saturday at 4:30 p.m. in a nationally televised game in Municipal Auditorium.

Coach Sytia Messer’s team made it a rematch of last year’s title game by pulling out an 81-72 victory in overtime over No. 2 seed Eastern Illinois Friday afternoon.

Senior Tacarra Hayes nearly made history, finishing with 26 points, 14 rebounds, nine assists and five steals. She was one assist short of recording the first triple-double in tourney history.

Junior Jala Harris also had a huge game, finishing with 24 points including seven in overtime. Molly Heady just missed another double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds, while freshman T’Keyah Williams added 10 points before leaving late in regulation with an injury.

Eastern Illinois (22-8) had three players in double figures, topped by Ta’Kenya Nixon with 23 points. Mariah King added 11 points and seven rebounds, and Jordyne Crunck netted 10 for the Panthers.

The Golden Eagles have now won 11 of their last 13 games.

Tech never trailed the entire game, pulling on top by as many as 14 points in the first half. The Golden Eagles were still up by double digits with under nine minutes remaining, before Eastern Illinois began to peck away at the difference.

Following a 40-minute delay in which the arena was evacuated to a safer location because of a tornado warning, the Panthers finally tied the contest on a 3-pointer by Sydney Mitchell with 12 seconds left.

Tech had one chance to win in regulation by Hayes’ layup missed with one second to play.

Already missing post players Brittany Darling (fouls) and Williams (injury), and with Harris playing with four fouls, the Golden Eagles didn’t miss a beat in the overtime.

Harris got things started with a 3-pointer, her fourth of the game. After Nixon hit two free throws, Harris added a driving layup for a 73-70 lead, and Hayes added a jumper for a five-point margin. Heady made one free throw and Harris another layup and the lead was eight, 78-70, with 1:06 to play.

In fact Tech went 4-for-5 from the field in overtime and built an 11-point lead, 81-70, before the Panthers managed their only basket of the extra session. They finished 1-for-8 in overtime.