Junior forward Ariel Nickell poured in 39 points, including the go ahead free throw with 5 seconds remaining in overtime, to lift the visiting Alice Lloyd Lady Eagles to a thrilling 88-87 win over the University of Pikeville Lady Bears. The contest was played at the Pikeville Exposition Center. With the win, ALC avenged an earlier loss at the Grady Nutt Athletic Center.
The hosts came into the matchup red-hot, having won 5 out of their last 6 contests. In the first half, UPike’s Conley Brogan banged a three pointer just 6 seconds into the game to get the home team out to a quick start. The Bears then increased their lead to as much as 10 (20-10) on Brogan’s lay-in at 10:20, and looked to be in total command.
The Eagles, however, refused to roll over and slowly chipped away at the deficit. Three pointers by ALC guards JJ Hickson and Courtney Crowder, mixed in with 8 points from Nickell, allowed the Eagles to close the half on a 28-18 run to knot the score at 38 by intermission.
In the second half, both clubs showed their competitive fire. Alice Lloyd sprinted ahead 49-44 on Nickell’s power move at 15:04, only to watch UPike go on a 11-1 run to put themselves in the driver’s seat at 55-50 with 12:48 remaining.
At this point, Eagles guard Carla Booth sank back-to-back jumpers, followed by a Hickson bucket. Suddenly, the visitors led 56-55 with 11:42 left in the game. From this juncture, neither team led by more than four points.
With just 2:11 remaining, Lady Bear Callisha Johnson drained a charity toss to put her squad up 80-78, but back came Alice Lloyd. On their next possession, Hickson found Nickell on a nifty pass, and the forward connected on a clutch jumper to knot the score at 80.
Both clubs traded misses until UPike had the ball looking for the win. Lady Bears’ star Brogan drove to the rim with 5 seconds on the clock, looking for the game winner, but her shot came up short. ALC’s Booth snatched the precious rebound and called timeout. On the ensuing possession, she then got off a long distance bomb at the buzzer that fell off the rim, and the crowd roared as five extra minutes were placed on the clock.
In overtime, Alice Lloyd’s Nickell put her club up 81-80 on a free throw at 4:21, only to see Pikeville’s Whitney Jackson connect at 4:05 to give the lead back to the hosts (82-81).
Lady Eagle Booth then took over as she sank two free throws, collared a defensive rebound following a Lady Bears miss, and then sank a difficult driving lay-up at 3:12. Her flurry put ALC ahead 85-82.
Pikeville battled back to tie the contest at 85 after three Jackson free throws, but then saw Alice Lloyd’s Nickell take over as the smooth forward refused to be denied on a power move, giving her squad an 87-85 lead at 1:24. After neither team scored over the next minute, UPike’s Jackson then tied the contest again at 87 on a lay-in with just 26 ticks remaining in the game.
ALC brought the ball in looking to hold for one shot, but the Bears’ Johnson stripped Nickell and raced for the hoop, looking to give her squad the advantage. However, Alice Lloyd’s Hickson made the defensive play of the night as she blocked the layup attempt, which was then retrieved by her buddy Booth.
Given a second chance, the visitors ran the clock down to 5 seconds before finding their leading scorer Nickell inside. She was fouled by Pikeville’s Christin Haney with just 5 seconds left on the clock. Nickell watched her first try rim out, but regrouped to swish her second attempt.
Trailing 88-87, the Bears got the ball to Haney, but her bomb at the buzzer fell short and gave the Lady Eagles an exciting, but exhausting win.
“It was a gut-check game,” said victorious Coach John Mills. “Our girls battled hard and forced overtime. In the extra session, they refused to be denied. I am pleased with the all-around effort I got from every player tonight.”
“I’ve wanted to beat UPike for two years,” Ariel Nickell said. “It feels good to finally get the win.”
For the winning club (8-6), Nickell led the way with 39 points on a blistering 15-24 from the field. She also hauled down a game-high 13 rebounds and added 3 steals. She was followed by Booth with 17 points, 8 rebounds, and a game-high 7 assists. Also reaching double figures was Hickson with 14 points and Crowder with 10. Hickson also chipped in with 6 rebounds to help give ALC an important 55-46 rebounding advantage.
For UPike (5-6), Brogan led the way with 25. Jackson added 19.
ALC shot 45% from the floor, compared to the Lady Bears 38.5%, while the hosts won the free throw battle, 76.5% (13-17) to 60% (14-23). Alice Lloyd came up big from long range, however, as they hit 40% (6-15) to Pikeville’s 20% (4-20).
The Lady Eagles have earned a much-deserved rest and will resume play on January 4th when they face Point Park University at home. That game tips at 2 PM. Alice Lloyd defeated Point Park University on November 21st in a game played on the Lady Pioneers’ home court in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Box score courtesy of the KIAC:
|Alice Lloyd (Ky.)|