» By TRENT SINGER – firstname.lastname@example.org
In a must-win regular season finale at home, senior Whitney Hanley scored 19 points as the Lady Govs defeated the Southeast Missouri Redhawks, 88-84, on Saturday, Feb. 25.
Hanley was one of five starters to score in double digits, including sophomore Nicole Olszewski with 13, freshman Shelby Olszewski with 17, freshman Kristen Stainback with 13 and junior Meghan Bussabarger with 13 points.
“It was great for players to step up and see that energy and intensity,” said head coach Carrie Daniels.
“I saw a lot of energy and emotion on that floor.”
Senior Jasmine Rayner provided a boost for the team by scoring eight points and adding six rebounds to the win.
The Olszewski sisters finished the night shooting 4-of-7 from three-point range and combining for 30 points.
“I’ve just been trying to let the game come to me,” Nicole Olszewski said. “The shots were there, so I took them.”
Despite fouling out with three minutes left in the game, Hanley received a standing ovation from the crowd as Daniels embraced the senior with a well-deserved hug.
Hanley finished the regular season ranked third in scoring, averaging 18.9 points per game. Her 1,502 career points puts her just ahead of APSU hall-of-famer Ashley Haynes for fourth place all-time in school history.
The Lady Govs outscored the Redhawks in the first half, 36-30, and only turned the ball over twice during the period. Hanley contributed 14 points and three steals in the first half as well.
During the second half, the Lady Govs continued to control the game. The team led by 17 points with four minutes left, but the Redhawks continued to force the Lady Govs to win at the free-throw line.
Although several players struggled shooting free throws late in the game, Stainback helped seal the victory by hitting 7-of-8 from the free-throw line in the game’s final minute.
The win propels the Lady Govs into the post-season as the No. 8 seed, where they will face No. 5 seed Morehead State in the first round on Wednesday, Feb. 29, at noon in Nashville’s Municipal Auditorium.
“It’ll be competitive for sure,” Hanley said.
“We lost to them, and we beat them. So I’m excited to play.”
The Lady Govs have won three of their last four games, including a stunning overtime win against Morehead State last Saturday, Feb. 18, at home, 88-81.
“It was a great atmosphere,” Daniels said. “To us, it was the play-in game, so we approached this as our tournament starting tonight.
“Now we move on to Nashville.” TAS