Beckley, WV – On February 26th, the River States Conference’s #1 Western Division seed, the Alice Lloyd College Lady Eagles, traveled to Beckley, West Virginia, to face the Eastern Division #1 seed (and the conference’s regular season champion), the West Virginia Tech Lady Golden Bears. In an exciting contest between the conference’s top two teams, the fans witnessed the hosts hit a shot at the buzzer and prevail in a thriller, 68-66.
The Golden Bears entered the matchup on fire, winners of 17 of their last 18 games, while the Lady Eagles entered with the league’s longest active winning streak, 8 consecutive games. All signs pointed to a barn-burner, and the fans in attendance definitely got their monies worth.
The start was all the visitors could hope for. All five starters got in on the action as the Lady Eagles jumped out to a 15-6 advantage in the opening 4:45.
When sophomore center Alex Clifton completed an old-fashioned three-point play with 3:36 remaining, the score was doubled (20-10). Alice Lloyd would lead 21-14 after ten minutes of action.
In the second quarter, the home fans had plenty to cheer about as they saw their squad battle back and get within three.
At that point, Clifton would take over as she scored nine consecutive ALC points to help the visitors maintain their lead. Next, sophomore guard Ali May bagged consecutive three-point bombs. Suddenly, with 2:57 remaining, the Lady Eagles led 36-23 and were on the verge of taking a commanding advantage at the half.
There is a reason that WV Tech earned the conferences regular season title, and they began to chip away at the deficit. The hosts closed the half on a 10-4 spurt, and ALC would hold a 40-33 lead at intermission.
In the third stanza, the ladies from Caney Creek would come out of the dressing room and open with a 7-2 run to pull ahead by twelve (47-35). The question became, “Could this be the time they finally pulled away?” Not if WVT had anything to do with it.
At this point, the home team took off. Powered by the play of their fine guard Savannah Shamblin, Tech exploded on a 15-0 burst as Alice Lloyd went cold. Suddenly, with 3:10 on the clock, the West Virginia squad had their first lead of the night (50-47).
Fortunately, Coach John Mills’ ladies would never quit fighting. The visitors righted the ship and closed out the quarter with a quick 8-3 spurt, and ALC entered the last ten minutes clinging to a 55-53 advantage.
In the final period, the two heavyweights stood toe-to-toe. Neither of these championship-worthy teams refused to back down as they traded buckets the entire way. When Lady Eagle leading scorer Haley Hall scored late on clutch back-to-back possessions, the clock entered the final minute with Alice Lloyd ahead, 66-64.
In need of a good series, Tech worked the clock down searching for a high-percentage shot. Golden Bear Whittney Justice then drove to the hoop and missed a running jumper with .42 showing. However, the ball bounced off the rim straight back to the guard, and Justice tipped in her own miss to knot things once more at 66-66.
Now, with the crowd on their feet, and the ball in their hands, ALC showed patience. The guests had one opportunity to regain the lead as they looked to utilize the full clock. Finally, they swung the ball on the left side to junior Jayla Spurlock. The forward beat her defender and got a strong look inside with just one second left on the shot clock. Unfortunately, her attempt hung tantalizingly on the rim before it rolled off. With 0.11 remaining the rebound fell into the hands of WV Tech’s Carlie Biehl-Wilson.
With the game on the line, West Virginia Tech placed the ball in Shamblins hands. The guard looked to penetrate but was cut off by Alice Lloyd’s solid defense. Suddenly, with just seconds remaining before possible overtime, she spotted teammate Brittany Justice cutting backdoor to the hoop. The guard’s pass was perfect and Justice put a layup off the glass. As the ball sliced through the hoop, the horn went off, and the home crowd erupted in pure joy.
For Alice Lloyd (20-9), who put up a valiant effort, but saw their eight-game win streak come to an end, they were led by Clifton, who sank 7-12 shots for 16 points. She added 6 rebounds and 3 blocks Hall went 5-9 from the floor to finish with 13 points while adding 5 rebounds and 3 assists. May sank 3-5 from long range and chipped in with 11 points.
Spurlock tossed in 7 points while junior guard Katie Moore added 6 points, 4 assists, and 4 rebounds. The senior duo of center Emilee Harrell and guard Courtney Vasquez each contributed 4 points. Harrell grabbed 6 rebounds.
Sophomore guard Shelby Davis and freshman forward Bailee Brainard tossed in 3 and 2 points respectively while sophomore forward Mckayla Akers led the squad with 8 rebounds.
On the night, the Lady Eagles shot 43.5% (27-62) from the field, 30.4% (7-22) from deep, and just 62.5% (5-8) from the foul line. They added 45 rebounds, 13 assists, and 3 steals.
Shamblin led WVT (24-9) with 16 points. The winners shot 35.3 (24-68) from the field, 21.1% (4-19) from deep and a solid 76.2% (16-21) from the line. They added 39 rebounds, 13 assists, and 13 steals.
Both teams will represent the River States Conference in the NAIA Division II National Championship Tournament, which begins next Wednesday at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa. First-round pairings for the tourney will be announced Wednesday, at 7 p.m. The online selection show can be viewed here.