On March 4, 2020, the Austin Peay women’s basketball team fell to Belmont University in overtime, with a final score of 76-73.
The game was the third meeting between the two teams, the first two of which being taken by Belmont in the regular season.
“I think [Austin Peay] came out with more energy than we did,” Bruins head coach Bart Brooks said on the adjustments made by the Governors in the close contest. “Which was frustrating for me as a coach. It looked like they were a little hungrier than we were…just a lot of credit to those kids and those coaches in the other locker room.”
The Govs maintained a one-point margin throughout the first half, shooting 6-14 from the three-point line while forcing nine turnovers from Belmont. The third period was not nearly as kind to the Governors, who shot 1-13 over a span of four minutes after beginning the third with a 7-0 run.
Belmont would have a cold stretch of their own, however, hitting three of their final 11 shots in the fourth. Free-throw shooting cursed the Bruins as well, missing nine attempts (12-21) over the duration of the game.
A high-scoring fourth period by both teams would lead to a 66-66 tie with 12 seconds to play. Both teams would have an opportunity to play hero for their respective program: Brandi Ferby for the Govs had her floater blocked by Maddie Cook of Belmont. With four seconds remaining, Maura Muensterman heaved a three over Maggie Knowles, that shot clanking off the front of the rim.
In overtime, All-OVC first team selection Ellie Harmeyer took over for Belmont, scoring nine of her 27 points on the night in the final frame. The Bruins’ poor free throw performance in regulation saw improvement in overtime, shooting 8-9 from the line. An 8-0 stretch over the final three minutes in overtime would seal the deal for Belmont.
Arielle Gonzalez-Varner would lead the Governors in scoring for the evening, scoring 20 points along with seven rebounds and two assists. Varner was limited in what may be her final collegiate game, fouling out of the contest with 2:18 remaining.
Gonzalez-Varner was emotional in reminiscence of the 2020 campaign: “I think one of the biggest things is how big it is to play your role.”I know that going into the season I was expected to score a lot every game, with this team I didn’t have to.”
Seventh-seeded teams are now 1-11 since 2010 in the opening round of the OVC tournament. Despite the odds stacked against the Governors, head coach David Midlick said that the game was treated with a ‘business as usual’ mentality.
“We treated this like another game. We wanted to be on point, we took some things that were good and bad from our two meetings with [Belmont] during the regular season. We wanted to keep it as normal as possible.”
The Governors season came to a close with a final record of 18-12. The trip to the opening round of the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament was the fifth consecutive berth for the Govs, all five being under the helm of Midlick.
With a small graduating class and key role players in Ella Sawyer, D’Shara Booker, Brandi Ferby, and Maggie Knowles expected to return, the Governors women’s basketball team is poised for greatness in 2021 and beyond.