NASHVILLE – Here's hoping the third time's the charm.
For the third consecutive year, Tennessee Tech will play in the Ohio Valley Conference Women's Basketball championship game against UT Martin. Tech has suffered heartbreak the past two years, and gets another crack at it Saturday when the Golden Eagles meet the Skyhawks at 1:30 p.m. in Municipal Auditorium.
Tech advanced to the 2013 title game with a mind-numbing 61-57 victory over Belmont Friday afternoon, using two critical offensive rebounds late in the game to earn game-changing second chance baskets.
Those grabs on the offensive glass gave coach Jim Davis' team just enough breathing room despite Belmont pulling to within a single point three times.
In the final 33 seconds, a layup by Jala Harris, a free throw by Lashay Davis, and two final free throws from Diamond Henderson provided the difference.
So did a smashingly strong game from sophomore T'Keyah Williams, who posted 13 points, 14 rebounds and three blocked shots for her fifth double-double of the year. Harris led Tech in scoring with 15 points and also dished out six assists, while Henderson dropped in 12 points and added three assists and two steals.
Second-seeded Tech (19-11) bids for its 10th OVC Tournament title, and plays in the championship game for the time 22nd in the 32-history of the event. Third-seeded UTM (18-14) advanced to the title game with a 71-69 victory over top-seeded Eastern Illinois Friday.
In addition to those three double-figure scorers, Kellie Cook added eight and Molly Heady (in photo) notched seven points and four rebounds.
That pair provided what might have been the most important plays of the day for the Golden Eagles.
With 3:43 to play and Tech clinging to a three-point edge, Cook pulled down a weakside offensive rebounds, held her ground, and muscled back to the basket with a putback that made it a 54-49 lead.
Less than a minute later, Heady slipped through a crowd of players battling for rebound position, grabbed the carom and tossed it back in. That basket gave Tech a seven-point lead, 56-49, with 2:49 to play.
Back-to-back three-pointers from Katie Carroll and Jordyn Luffman cut the difference to one point, 56-55, before Heady blocked a shot and grabbed another rebound, and Harris sliced through traffic at the other end for a layup with 33 seconds to play for a three-point lead.
Another Belmont basket brought the Bruins within one again, and Davis made a free throw with 20 seconds left for a two-point margin.
Belmont missed a jumper with four seconds remaining, Henderson grabbed the defensive rebound, and canned two free throws with two seconds to go for the final score.
Katie Brooks scored 12 of her team-high 16 points in the second half to lead the Bruins (18-13). She also grabbed six rebounds. Adrienne Tarrence added 12 points and Molly Ernst finished with 10. Luffman had eight points and six rebounds.
Saturday's title game will be televised by WCTE TV in the mid-state region, and nationally on ESPN3. The game broadcast can be heard on the Golden Eagle Sports Network (Fox Sports Radio 106.1 The Eagle), with Roger Ealey calling the action.